Bioindicators of contaminant exposure presently used in environmental monitoring arc discussed. Some have been extensively field-validated and arc already in routine application. Included are (1) inhibition of brain or blood cholinesterase by anticholinesterase pesticides, (2) induction of hepatic microsomal cytochromes P450 by chemicals such as PAHs and PCBs, (3) reproductive problems such as terata and eggshell thinning, and (4) aberrations of hemoglobin synthesis, including the effects of lead and of certain chlorinated hydrocarbons. Many studies on DNA damage and of histopathological effects, particularly in the form of tumors, have already been completed. There are presently numerous other opportunities for field validation. Bile metabolites of contaminants in fish reveal exposure to contaminants that might otherwise be difficult to detect or quantify. Bile analysis is beginning to be extended to species other than fishes. Assessment of oxidative damage and immune competence appear to be valuable biomarkers. needing only additional field validation for wider use. The use of metallothioneins as biomarkers depends on the development of convenient, inexpensive methodology that provides information not available from measurements of metal ions. The use of stress proteins as biomarkers depends on development of convenient, inexpensive methodology and field validation. Gene arrays and proteomics hold promise as bioindicators for contaminant exposure or effect, particularly because of the large amount of data that could be generated, but they still need extensive development and testing.
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Bioindicators of contaminant exposure and effect in aquatic and terrestrial monitoring