Chronic fuel oil toxicity in American mink (Mustela vison): Systemic and hematological effects of ingestion of a low-concentration of bunker C fuel oil

Julie A. Schwartz, Brian M. Aldridge, Bill L. Lasley, Paul W. Snyder, Jeff L. Stott, F. Charles Mohr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Petroleum oil enters the coastal marine environment through various sources; marine mammals such as sea otters that inhabit this environment may be exposed to low concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbons through ingestion of contaminated prey. The inability to perform controlled studies in free-ranging animals hinders investigations of the effects of chronic petroleum oil exposure on sea otter morbidity and mortality, necessitating the development of a reliable laboratory model. We examined the effects of oral exposure to 500 ppm bunker C fuel oil over 113-118 days on American mink, a species phylogenetically related to the sea otter. Hematological parameters and organs were examined for fuel oil-associated changes. Hepatic cytochrome P4501A1 mRNA expression and fecal cortisol concentrations were also measured. Ingestion of fuel oil was associated with a decrease in erythrocyte count, hemoglobin concentration (Hgb), hematocrit (HCT), and an increase in mean corpuscular volume (MCV). Total leukocytes were elevated in the fuel oil group from increases in neutrophils, lymphocytes, and monocytes. Significant interactions between fuel oil and antigen challenge were found for erythrocyte parameters, monocyte and lymphocyte counts. Liver and adrenal weights were increased although mesenteric lymph node weights were decreased in the fuel oil group. Hepatic cytochrome P4501A1 mRNA was elevated in the fuel oil group. Fecal cortisol concentration did not vary between the two groups. Our findings show that fuel oil exposure alters circulating leukocyte numbers, erythrocyte homeostasis, hepatic metabolism and adrenal physiology and establish a framework to use mink as a model for sea otters in studying the systemic effects of marine contaminants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-158
Number of pages13
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 15 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Adrenals
  • Bunker C fuel oil
  • CYP1A1
  • Cortisol
  • Erythrocytes
  • Leukocytes
  • Liver
  • Lymph node
  • Mink
  • Petroleum oil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology


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