Accumulation of neurotoxic organochlorines and trace elements in brain of female European eel (Anguilla anguilla)

C. Bonnineau, D. Scaion, B. Lemaire, Claude Belpaire, Jean-Pierre THOMÉ, M. Thonon, M. Leermaker, Y. Gao, C. Debier, F. Silvestre, P. Kestemont, Jean-François Rees

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Xenobiotics such as organochlorine compounds (OCs) and metals have been suggested to play a significant role in the collapse of European eel stocks in the last decades. Several of these pollutants could affect functioning of the nervous system. Still, no information is so far available on levels of potentially neurotoxic pollutants in eel brain. In present study, carried out on female eels caught in Belgian rivers and canals, we analyzed brain levels of potentially-neurotoxic trace elements (Ag, Al, As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, MeHg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sn, Sb, Zn) and OCs (Polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs; Hexachlorocyclohexanes, HCHs; Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and its metabolites, DDTs). Data were compared to levels in liver and muscle tissues. Eel brain contained very high amounts of OCs, superior to those found in the two other tissues. Interestingly, the relative abundance of PCB congeners markedly differed between tissues. In brain, a predominance of low chlorinated PCBs was noted, whereas highly chlorinated congeners prevailed in muscle and liver. HCHs were particularly abundant in brain, which contains the highest amounts of β-HCH and Υ-HCH. p,p'-DDTs concentration was similar between brain and muscle (i.e., about twice that of liver). A higher proportion of p,p'-DDT was noticed in brain. Except for Cr and inorganic Hg, all potentially neurotoxic metals accumulated in brain to levels equal to or lower than hepatic levels. Altogether, results indicate that eel brain is an important target for organic and, to a lesser extent, for inorganic neurotoxic pollutants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)346-355
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • Brain
  • Eel
  • Mercury
  • Metals
  • Organochlorine pesticides
  • PCBs
  • Toxicology


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