The primary objective of the present study was to test whether agricultural chemical runoff was associated with in-stream genotoxicity in native fish. Using Sacramento sucker (Catostomus occidentalis), we combined field-caging experiments in an agriculturally dominated watershed with controlled laboratory exposures to field-collected water samples, and we coupled genotoxicity biomarker measurements in fish with bacterial mutagenicity analysis of water samples. We selected DNA strand breakage as a genotoxicity biomarker and Ames Salmonella mutagenicity tests as a second, supporting indicator of genotoxicity. Data from experiments conducted during rainfall runoff events following winter application of pesticides in 2000 and 2001 indicated that DNA strand breaks were significantly elevated in fish exposed to San Joaquin River (CA, USA) water (38.8, 28.4, and 53.6% DNA strand breakage in year 2000 field, year 2000 lab, and year 2001 field exposures, respectively) compared with a nearby reference site (15.4, 8.7, and 12.6% DNA strand breakage in year 2000 field, year 2000 lab, and year 2001 field exposures, respectively). Time-course measurements in field experiments supported a linkage between induction of DNA strand breakage and the timing of agricultural runoff. San Joaquin River water also caused significant reversion mutation in two Ames Salmonella tester strains. Salmonella mutagenicity corroborated in-stream effects, further strengthening a causal relationship between runoff events and genotoxicity. Potentially responsible agents are discussed in the context of timing of runoff events in the field, concordance between laboratory and field exposures, pesticide application patterns in the drainage, and analytical chemistry data.
Additional publication details
Genotoxicity in native fish associated with agricultural runoff events