Long-term exposure of marine mussels to paracetamol: is time a healer or a killer?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pharmaceuticals pose a major threat to the marine environment, and several studies have recently described their negative effects on marine organisms. Pharmaceutical compounds are constantly being released into aquatic ecosystems, and chronic exposure, even at low concentrations, may have a major impact on marine organisms. The purpose of the present study is to evaluate the biological changes induced by one of the most widely used pharmaceuticals—paracetamol—in the blue mussel Mytilus edulis, after a long-term exposure at environmentally relevant concentrations. We present our data alongside and in comparison with results from a previous short-term exposure, to demonstrate the significance of exposure period on the effects of paracetamol in adult blue mussels. After 24 days of laboratory exposure, seven potential target genes were selected to examine toxicological effects in mussels’ gonads and possible disruptive effects on reproductive processes. The results show the modulation of some important reproduction-related genes: estrogen receptor-2 (ER2), vitelline envelope zona pellucida domain-9 (V9), and vitellogenin (VTG). Variations in mRNA expression of four other genes involved in apoptosis (HSP70, CASP8, BCL2, and FAS) are also highlighted. Histopathological alterations caused by paracetamol, together with neutral red retention time response in mussels’ hemocytes, are presented herein. Overall, this study highlights the exacerbated effects of low concentration of paracetamol after chronic exposure, similar to the damage induced by higher concentrations in a short exposure scenario, thus emphasizing the importance of length of exposure period when studying the effects of this substance. Additionally, this study also discusses the potential of paracetamol to inflict several major changes in the reproductive system of mussels and thus possibly affect the survival of populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48823-48836
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number35
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research . The final authenticated version is available online at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11356-021-14136-6


  • Bivalves
  • Blue mussels
  • Histology
  • Marine pollution
  • Paracetamol
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Reproduction
  • Transcriptomics


Dive into the research topics of 'Long-term exposure of marine mussels to paracetamol: is time a healer or a killer?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • Mass Spectrometer

    Facility/equipment: Equipment

Cite this