Dietary exposure is a critical exposure pathway to toxic environmental chemicals in aquatic organisms. Research in our lab has focused on providing a Perspective on the current understanding of how transport proteins in epithelial tissues from multiple organ systems (particularly gills and intestines) facilitate the pumping of chemicals through the digestive system and to other tissues in the body of aquatic organisms. Our lab is interested in known expression patterns of various transporter protein families such as ATP Binding Cassette (ABC) proteins and Solute Carrier (SLC) proteins in select organisms. We seek to identify compounds that can alter protein expression, act as substrates, or even inhibit the function of these proteins. These compounds include biocides, commercial and industrial synthetic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, biotoxins, and endogenous compounds. Ultimately, this project will inform future research on how transport proteins can process environmental toxicants ingested by aquatic organisms.
We will focus on drug transporter interactions with biotoxins such as microcystins, cyclic peptides produced by certain algae during harmful algal blooms, and domoic acid, which is produced by diatoms and often retained in aquatic organisms. These compounds are potentially detrimental to the health of both aquatic organisms and people who consume contaminated fish and shellfish. We hope to examine the kinetic behavior of these compounds in select model organisms relevant to aquaculture as well as how exposure to other non-toxic compounds may modulate those kinetics. Our goal is to identify compounds that enhance the depuration rates of harmful biotoxins by fish and shellfish, thereby improving the safety of their consumption.