A proteomic evaluation of the effects of the pharmaceuticals diclofenac and gemfibrozil on marine mussels (Mytilus spp.): evidence for chronic sublethal effects on stress-response proteins

Wiebke Schmidt, Louis-Charles Rainville, Gillian McEneff, David Sheehan, Brian Quinn

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47 Citations (Scopus)


Human pharmaceuticals (e.g. the lipid regulator gemfibrozil and the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac) are an emerging environmental threat in the aquatic environment. This study aimed to evaluate sublethal effects of these two commonly found pharmaceuticals on the protein profiles of marine mussels (Mytilus spp.). Mytilus spp. was exposed to environmentally relevant and elevated concentrations (1 and 1000 µg/l respectively) of both drugs for 14 days. In addition, mussels were maintained for seven days post treatment to examine the potential of blue mussels to recover from such an exposure. Differential protein expression signatures (PES) in the digestive gland of mussels were obtained using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis after 7, 14, and 21 days of exposure. Twelve spots were significantly increased or decreased by gemfibrozil and/or diclofenac, seven of which were successfully identified by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) analysis. These proteins were involved in energy metabolism, oxidative stress response, protein folding, and immune responses. Changes in the PES over time suggested that mussels were still experiencing oxidative stress for up to seven days post exposure. In addition, a suite of biomarkers comprising glutathione transferase, lipid peroxidation, and DNA damage were studied. An oxidative stress response was confirmed by biomarker responses. To our knowledge, this is the first investigation using proteomics to assess the potential effects of human pharmaceuticals on a non-target species in an environmentally-relevant model. The successful application of this proteomic approach supports its potential use in pollution biomonitoring and highlights its ability to aid in the discovery of new biomarkers. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-219
Number of pages10
JournalDrug Testing and Analysis
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Diclofenac
  • Gemfibrozil
  • Mussel
  • Biomarkers
  • Proteomics
  • Pollution
  • Environment
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Pharmaceutical

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