Pyrene (PYR) and fluorene (FLU) are among the sixteen priority Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and are both frequently detected in contaminated sites. Due to the importance of bivalve mollusks in biomonitoring programs and the scarce information on the biotransformation system in these organisms, the aim of this study was to investigate the effect of PYR and FLU at the transcriptional level and the enzymatic activities of some biotransformation systems in the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas, and to evaluate the histological effects in their soft tissues. Oysters C. gigas were exposed for 24 h and 96 h to PYR (0.25 and 0.5 μM) and FLU (0.6 and 1.2 μM). After exposure, transcript levels of cytochrome P450 coding genes (CYP1-like, CYP2-like, CYP2AU2, CYP356A1, CYP17α-like), glutathione S tranferase genes (omega GSTO-like and microsomal, MGST-like) and sulfotransferase gene (SULT-like), and the activity of ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase (EROD), Glutathione S-transferase (GST) and microssomal GST (MGST) were evaluated in gills. Histologic changes were also evaluated after the exposure period. PYR and FLU bioconcentrated in oyster soft tissues. The half-life time of PYR in water was lower than fluorene, which is in accordance to the higher lipophilicity and bioconcentration of the former. EROD activity was below the limit of detection in all oysters exposed for 96 h to PYR and FLU. The reproductive stage of the oysters exposed to PYR was post-spawn. Exposure to PYR caused tubular atrophy in digestive diverticula, but had no effect on transcript levels of biotransformation genes. However, the organisms exposed for 96 h to PYR 0.5 μM showed higher MGST activity, suggesting a protective role against oxidative stress in gills of oysters under higher levels of PYR in the tissues. Increased number of mucous cells in mantle were observed in oysters exposed to the higher FLU concentration, suggesting a defense mechanisms. Oysters exposed for 24 h to FLU 1.2 μM were in the ripe stage of gonadal development and showed higher transcript levels of CYP2AU2, GSTO-like and SULT-like genes, suggesting a role in the FLU biotransformation. In addition, after 96 h of exposure to FLU there was a significant increase of mucous cells in the mantle of oysters but no effect was observed on the EROD, total GST and MGST activities. These results suggest that PAH have different effects on transcript levels of biotransformation genes and enzyme activities, however these differences could also be related to the reproductive stage.
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