Metallothioneins and trace metals in the dogwhelk Nucella lapillus (L.) collected from Icelandic coasts

Kenneth M.Y. Leung*, Rachel E. Dewhurst, Halldór Halldórsson, Jörundur Svavarsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Different sizes of the dogwhelk Nucella lapillus were collected from eight locations along the southwest and north coasts of Iceland. Concentrations of total metallothioneins (MTs) and heavy metals (Cd, Cu, Cr, Mn, Ni, and Zn) were analysed using the silver saturation method and inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrometry. The level of tributyltin (TBT) contamination was also assessed using imposex indices, the vas deferens stage index (VDSI) and relative penis size index (RPSI). Gufunes N. lapillus presented the highest values of VDSI (4.0) and RPSI (11.1), followed by Grenivík individuals (VDSI = 3.0; RPSI = 0.9), while the Strandakirkja population showed the lowest VDSI (0.3) and zero RPSI. At a standardised size (0.25 g dry soft-body weight), Grenivík N. lapillus exhibited significantly higher concentrations of all metals whereas overall metal concentrations were significantly lower in individuals from Strandakirkja and Garoskagi compared to other study sites. Partial correlation analyses with size correction indicated that MT concentrations were better correlated with Cd and Cu concentrations than with other metals. At the standard size, the pattern of MT concentrations in N. lapillus from different sites was, however, very different from those of metal profiles. Such discrepancies between the patterns of MT and metals in N. lapillus might be explained by the fact that MT induction could be influenced by various factors such as temperature, dietary metal intake, growth rate and co-existence of other MT-inducing chemicals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-737
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number8-12
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The fieldwork in this study was carried out whilst KMYL was supported by the European Community’s “Training and Mobility of Researchers (TMR)-Large Scale Facility Programme” and the Institute of Biology, University of Iceland. Gudmundur V. Helgason is thanked for organising many aspects of the visit and for help with equipment. We would also like to thank Stuart Fleming for his help on collecting trips and Cecily Law for her technical support. The metal and metallothionein analyses were partially funded by the Croucher Foundation of Hong Kong. Metal analysis was carried out by the NERC ICP-AES facility at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Other keywords

  • Biomarkers
  • Biomonitoring
  • Metal-binding proteins
  • Nordic regions
  • Snails


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