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A multi-platform metabolomics approach to identify possible biomarkers for human faecal contamination in Greenshell (TM) mussels (Perna canaliculus)


Bivalve molluscs have the potential to bioaccumulate microbial pathogens including noroviruses from aquatic environments and as such, there is a need for a rapid and cheap in-situ method for their detection. Here, we characterise the tissue-specific response of New Zealand Greenshell™ mussels (Perna canaliculus) to faecal contamination from two different sources (municipal sewage and human faeces). This is done with the view to identify potential biomarkers that could be further developed into low cost, rapid and sensitive in-situ biosensors for human faecal contamination detection of mussels in growing areas. Tissue-specific metabolic profiles from gills, haemolymph and digestive glands were analysed using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) and liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC–MS). Clear differentiation of metabolic profiles was observed among treatments in each tissue type. Overall, energy pathways such as glycolysis, citrate cycle and oxidative phosphorylation were downregulated across the three mussel tissues studied following simulated contamination events. Conversely, considerable sterol upregulation in the gills was observed after exposure to contamination. Additionally, free pools of nucleotide phosphates and the antioxidant glutathione declined considerably post-exposure to contamination in gills. These results provide important insights into the tissue-specific metabolic effects of human faecal contamination in mussels. This study demonstrates the utility of metabolomics as a tool for identifying potential biomarkers in mussels.

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