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Enhancing Nuclear Safety


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Study of the impact of radionuclides discharges from nuclear industry in the northern Cotentin area on the oyster Crassostrea gigas. Expression of molecular cell stress markers

Emilie FARCY, doctorate thesis of the University of Caen - Basse Normandie, Ecole Doctorale Normande de Chemistry-Biology, 350p, defended ont the 28th November 2006.

Summary

This thesis explores the potential radiological impact of radionuclide discharges from the nuclear industry on the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas. One of the major goals of this research was to identify markers that could be used to monitor the effects of low-level chronic irradiation. We decided to focalize on the expression of stress-induced genes involved in the regulation of cellular stress, focusing on transcription. First, homology cloning was used to identify four new cDNAs encoding stress markers. Then data collected at various sites enabled to evidence that mRNA levels for each of the genes of interest naturally vary to a significant degree, based on individual differences and seasonal factors. Comparing oysters from exposed sites with those from a reference site located on the Atlantic coast did not suggest any relationship between mRNA levels changes and the oysters’ exposure to liquid radioactive waste from the AREVA reprocessing plant. In the environment, we found that those radionuclide releases resulted in a very small increase in radioactivity in oysters, especially compared with their natural radioactivity. In the laboratory, by exposing the oysters to higher radionuclide concentrations than those found in the environment, we were able to identify two genes as potential candidates for studying the effects of chronic exposure to low doses of ionizing radiations in the oyster: genes encoding MT and MXR. We confirmed that transcriptional induction of these two genes occurs in response to high doses of acute irradiation. Finally, the comparison between environmental results and the laboratory results underlined the complementarity of these two approaches. In particular, it revealed that seasonal variations in mRNA levels probably have a significant effect on the stress response.


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