Grass shrimp embryos develop in egg sacs (stages 1-10) attached to the female for 14-20 days after which they 'hatch' from the egg sacs into a swimming zoea stage (stage 11). Until they emerge from the egg sacs, embryos depend on lipids and lipovitellin stored within the egg. The percent of embryos which hatch after exposure to toxicants relative to controls was the basis of an embryo development assay. Exposure of embryos to chromium(III) chloride, sodium chromate, mercuric chloride, and 2-methyl-1,2-naphthoquinone (MNQ) resulted in a reduced hatching rate. In addition to effects on embryo development, DNA strand damage tests were carried out on contaminant-exposed embryos, using the single-cell electrophoresis method often referred to as comet assay. Development of stage 4 embryos was more affected by MNQ exposure than stage 7 embryos. The hatching rates of stages 4 and 7 embryos exposed to MNQ (172 μg/l) were 0 and 90%, respectively. DNA strand damage, measured as DNA tail moments, were 3.4 and 4.4, respectively. Thus, exposure of an early embryo stage to MNQ prevented full embryo development while development of later embryo stages was not affected. It may be that the DNA repair systems are more efficient in later embryo stages than in early stages and thus DNA damaged in the early stages affects development. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.
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