Examination of the bioactive components within oil sands process-affected water using a goldfish (Carassius auratus L.) primary kidney macrophage bioassay

Production of large volumes of oil sands process-affected waters (OSPW) is a by-product of the surface mining of bitumen and its extraction at industry sites in Northern Alberta, Canada. OSPW represents a complex mixture of inorganic (e.g., metals) and organic components (e.g., naphthenic acids) that are believed to contribute to adverse effects following OSPW exposures. However, all of the toxic components of OSPW have yet to be fully identified in part due to the dynamic component mixtures that exist in various tailings ponds. The purpose of the present study is to explore the immunotoxic effects of whole OSPW and its inorganic fraction (IF) and organic fraction (OF) using primary goldfish kidney macrophage (PKM) cultures. Specifically, goldfish PKMs were exposed at sub-lethal doses to whole OSPW, OSPW-IF & OSPW-OF and immune gene profiling by quantitative (q) PCR was performed. Whole OSPW samples and their fractions caused significant but variable increases in the expression of a major pro-inflammatory cytokine called interleukin 1-beta (IL-1ß), indicating that potent immunomodulatory constituents are present within these waters. However, many other inflammatory genes were not significantly induced following OSPW exposures. Additional immune gene profiling is currently being performed to help create a proinflammatory fingerprint for the various OSPW samples. Overall, this study, when combined with constituent analyses and microbial community assessments, will possibly provide new biomarkers that can be used to compare various OSPWs and to monitor them during ongoing passive remediation efforts.