University of Oulu

Kesäniemi, J, Jernfors, T, Lavrinienko, A, et al. Exposure to environmental radionuclides is associated with altered metabolic and immunity pathways in a wild rodent. Mol Ecol. 2019; 28: 4620– 4635.

Exposure to environmental radionuclides is associated with altered metabolic and immunity pathways in a wild rodent

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Author: Kesäniemi, Jenni1; Jernfors, Toni1; Lavrinienko, Anton1;
Organizations: 1Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.9 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2019
Publish Date: 2019-12-05


Wildlife inhabiting environments contaminated by radionuclides face putative detrimental effects of exposure to ionizing radiation, with biomarkers such as an increase in DNA damage and/or oxidative stress commonly associated with radiation exposure. To examine the effects of exposure to radiation on gene expression in wildlife, we conducted a de novo RNA sequencing study of liver and spleen tissues from a rodent, the bank vole Myodes glareolus. Bank voles were collected from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ), where animals were exposed to elevated levels of radionuclides, and from uncontaminated areas near Kyiv, Ukraine. Counter to expectations, we did not observe a strong DNA damage response in animals exposed to radionuclides, although some signs of oxidative stress were identified. Rather, exposure to environmental radionuclides was associated with upregulation of genes involved in lipid metabolism and fatty acid oxidation in the livers — an apparent shift in energy metabolism. Moreover, using stable isotope analysis, we identified that fur from bank voles inhabiting the CEZ had enriched isotope values of nitrogen: such an increase is consistent with increased fatty acid metabolism, but also could arise from a difference in diet or habitat between the CEZ and elsewhere. In livers and spleens, voles inhabiting the CEZ were characterized by immunosuppression, such as impaired antigen processing, and activation of leucocytes involved in inflammatory responses. In conclusion, exposure to low dose environmental radiation impacts pathways associated with immunity and lipid metabolism, potentially as a stress‐induced coping mechanism.

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Series: Molecular ecology
ISSN: 0962-1083
ISSN-E: 1365-294X
ISSN-L: 0962-1083
Volume: 28
Issue: 20
Pages: 4620 - 4635
DOI: 10.1111/mec.15241
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1182 Biochemistry, cell and molecular biology
1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: P.W., and T.M. were funded by Academy of Finland (project numbers 287153 and 268670, respectively).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 287153
Detailed Information: 287153 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
268670 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2019 The Authors. Molecular Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.