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Journal of Environmental Pathology, Toxicology and Oncology

Impact factor: 1.246

ISSN Print: 0731-8898
ISSN Online: 2162-6537

Journal of Environmental Pathology, Toxicology and Oncology

DOI: 10.1615/JEnvironPatholToxicolOncol.v20.i4.80
8 pages

DNA Damage in Birds After the Mining Waste Spill in Southwestern Spain: A Comet Assay Evaluation

Nuria Pastor
Department of Cell Biology, Faculty of Biology, University of Seville, Spain
Miguel Lopez-Lazaro
Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Seville, Spain
Jose Luis Tella
Department of Applied Biology, Estacion Biologica de Donana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Seville, Spain
Raquel Baos
Department of Applied Biology, Estacion Biologica de Donana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Seville, Spain
Manuela G. Forrero
Department of Applied Biology, Estacion Biologica de Donana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Seville, Spain
Fernando Hiraldo
Department of Applied Biology, Estacion Biologica de Donana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Seville, Spain
Felipe Cortes
Department of Cell Biology, Faculty of Biology, University of Seville, Spain

ABSTRACT

In April 1998, an ecological disaster resulting from a massive toxic spill of mining acid waste rich in heavy metals posed a serious threat to the Donana National Park in southwestern Spain. This especially important protected area is the nesting and breeding site for many endangered bird species; white storks (Ciconia ciconia) and black kites (Milvus migrans) are considered the more representative. The suitability of the Comet assay as a biomarker for genotoxic analysis in environmental biomonitoring has been recently validated in studies using different sentinel organisms such as fish, amphibians, rodents, or mollusks. Birds preying on a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate species in the marshlands are appropriate for evaluating the potential deleterious effects of the toxic spill on wildlife of the Donana area. Our study on wetland birds high on the aquatic trophic chain sampled within a few months after the toxic spill in the area around Donana National Park has shown the accumulation of heavy metals. Fourteen months after the mine waste spill, blood samples from white storks and kites collected in the neighborhood of the park and from control birds at reference areas for comparison were examined by fluorescence image analysis after lymphocyte isolation, and by subsequent alkaline single-cell gel (SCG) electrophoresis, known as the Comet assay. Our results indicate that the exposed birds had a significantly increased level of genotoxic damage compared with control animals from noncontaminated locations.