The National Institute of Aquatic Toxicology (INCT-TA) involves the participation of the following research groups:

Headquarter Group – FURG

The headquarter group involves researchers from two consolidated nuclei: researchers from the Laboratory of Zoophysiology (LABZOO) and those from the Laboratory of Organic Microcontaminants and Aquatic Ecotoxicology (CONECO - FURG). These two nuclei perfectly complement each other for studies on aquatic contamination and biological effects of pollutants in aquatic organisms. The LABZOO has infrastructure necessary to perform metal analysis while CONECO has the infrastructure for analysis of microcontaminants and organic compounds in environmental and biological samples. These laboratories have all facilities need to develop the research activities described in the INCT-TA's program, such as sampling handling and preparation, analytical instrumentation, cultivation, maintenance and experimentation with different organisms, informatics and personnel rooms. People involved with these laboratories have wide experience and know-how to analyze metals, microcontaminants and organic contaminants in environmental and biological matrices. Recently, CONECO received the international certification of analytical proficiency issued in August 2006 and August 2007 by CAEAL (Canadian Association for Environmental Analytical Laboratories) from Canada. Therefore, CONECO is certified to do analysis of PAHs in water and sediment samples. In turn, LABZOO has infrastructure installed and qualified and expert personnel to analyze biochemical, physiological, genetics and immunological biomarkers, while CONECO is capable of analyze biomarkers associated with the metabolism of xenobiotics. Both research nuclei aim the development and application of biomarkers in aquatic animals for use in water contamination monitoring, as well as the ecotoxicological modeling and its role in the regulation of contaminants emission in water bodies. In this context, it is important to note the effective participation of researchers from the LABZOO in the development of the Biotic Ligand Model (BLM) to evaluate the bioavailability and toxicity of metals in aquatic organisms, which is now a model adopted by Environmental Protection Agencies from USA, Canada, Australia and Chile. Furthermore, a possible implementation of this model is also being studied in the European Union and China.

Associated Group – UFSC

The research group registered at the CNPq entitled "Biochemical and molecular defense systems in aquatic organisms exposed to contaminants" aims to identify the molecular and biochemical effects of contaminants present in the environment. In the last 13 years, different studies have been performed with bivalves (mussel Perna perna and oysters Crassostrea gigas and Crassostrea rhizophorae), crustaceans (shrimps Litopenaeus vannamei and Farfantepenaeus paulensis) and fish (Oreochromis niloticus, Danio rerio, Poecilia vivipara and Cyprinus carpio). The research group has developed studies on the effects of whole domestic sewage, diesel (total and soluble fraction), pesticides (Carbofuran, Paraquat) and metals (Zinc, Lead) on some of the listed species. Both laboratory, under controlled conditions, and in situ experiments in impacted environment have been developed, aiming to contribute for the elucidation of the toxic mechanism of these contaminants. They also aim to evaluate these effects under a real condition, in the field. Among the biomarkers analyzed, it can be mentioned the enzymatic and non-enzymatic defense system, biotransformation enzymes of phase I, II and III, some enzymes indicators of cellular lesions, among others. In the last 5 years, the research group has developed studies associated with the identification and development of new molecular biomarkers of exposure and effect in C. gigas, C. rhizophorae and Poecilia vivipara. To accomplish this, new molecular techniques of subtractive supressive hybridization are being used to built a subtractive library of genes differentially expressed that, in some cases, are already being validated by techniques of real time PCR.

Associated Group – UFPR

This research group aims to study the effects of environmental pollutants in several animal species. Researchers from this group have developed and standardized methodologies to be used in the early diagnostic of xenobiotic exposure. They are involved in multidisciplinary projects on the Aquatic Toxicology field aiming to elucidate the mechanism of action and the effects of several pollutants in aquatic organisms. Environmental pollutants studied involve pesticides, cyanotoxins, antibiotics and their residues in water and food. Furthermore this group is helping government agencies in making decisions regarding the protection of spring of water and the quality of water bodies used by aquatic organisms and for human consumption.

Associated Group – UEL

Researchers from the Laboratory of Animal Ecophysiology have developed studies aiming to understand the action and effects of different types of contaminants (pesticides, metals and petroleum derivates) in several functional processes of aquatic animals. These studies include molecular, cellular, genetic, biochemical, physiological and structural studies for an integrated characterization of organisms. Results obtained has allowed a better understanding of the xenobiotics effects in aquatic organisms with emphasis in neotropical fish, considering different levels of biological organization. Furthermore, results can generate methodologies for the identification of the main discharge of pollutants in water basins, as well as the regulation and monitoring of water resources. This directly contributes for the improvement of waters from our rivers. The conjoint action of researchers, undergraduate and graduate students in the development of research group has trained high quality personnel capable of acting in research, development and management of water resources.

Associated Group – UFSCAR

The Laboratory of Zoophysiology and Comparative Biochemistry (LZBC) has the main objective to study the physiology of organs and systems in aquatic animals, their different levels of organization and adjustments facing alterations from the external and internal media. These studies allow a better understanding how each species faces the limitations imposed by the environment, aiming to support life and the species perpetuation. Also, they include environmental studies based on field collection, "in situ" and laboratory studies, under controlled conditions to evaluate the morphological and functional responses of aquatic animals to environmental changes, in particular, the presence of xenobiotics in the aquatic medium. Studies also aim to identify mechanisms of action and selection of biomarkers for environmental monitoring. They also analyze the physiological adaptive interactions against environmental changes such as temperature, dissolved oxygen and the toxicity of xenobiotics in aquatic environments, considering the tolerance to different chemicals, effects on the gill tissue and their involvement in respiratory and osmoregulatory processes, in the liver, kidneys and blood, as well as on the metabolic process of detoxification. The laboratory has all facilities for these studies.

Associated Group – UFPE

The UFPE group was recently formed (2007) and has a research laboratory with infrastructure for behavioral tests with fish and aquatic invertebrates, as well as to quantity classic biochemical biomarkers such as activities of acetylcholinesterase and biotransformation enzymes, signaling the deleterious effects at the sub-organismic level. The Laboratory of Aquatic Ecotoxicology will have in 2009 a total area of 75 m2, where organisms to be tested can be maintained and behavioral toxicity tests can be performed with the early life stages of fish and marine invertebrates. The objectives of the studies include the evaluation of behavioral alterations induced by exposure to chemical contaminants in the water. These alterations can be adaptive, including fish escape reaction due to the presence of the contaminant in the water or non-adaptive such as decrease in sensorial ability like vision, ability for predation or escape from predators. The infrastructure allow researchers to perform tests in laboratory aiming to generate quantitative measurements of important aspects of the life cycle, as well as in situ exposure of model species with further quantification of biochemical and behavioral parameters. The infrastructure for behavioral tests includes fixed and portable digital video systems for working with up to 16 cameras simultaneously. Parameters quantified include the swimming activity of fish and invertebrates isolated or during interaction with preys or predators. Also, parameters related to feeding and escape from predators can be quantified. These parameters have high ecological significance for maintenance of populations. This approach can thus validate biochemical and/or physiological effects at the sub-organismic level as early indicators of ecological relevance. To achieve this, behavioral parameters at the individual level are correlated with biomarkers relatively specific of certain groups of environmental contaminants such as, for example, the inhibition of the acetylcholinesterase activity induced by carbamates employed in agriculture.

Network Activities

The analysis of biomarkers are being performed by all groups associated using the same samples collected in toxicity tests, characterizing the sharing of duties, responsibilities, and products generated. The chemical analysis of the experimental media employed in the toxicity tests are also being performed in an integrated way. All these analyses aim to identify and select the biomarkers that will be calibrated in the field. In addition to research, network activities are characterized by the co-supervision of graduate students, as well as personnel exchange between the associated groups. Finally, network activities are being complemented by the annual workshop, as well as the collaborative work of production and diffusion of knowledge to society. Also, it should be mentioned the integrated process of identification, development, and application of biomarkers by the decision makers as tools to refine the environmental regulation concerning the emission of contaminants in Brazilian water bodies.

Potential Generation of Technological Products

Studies in the scope of the INCT-TA are binge developed with different types of biomarkers in aquatic animals. However, the first step of the Program involved the generation of a databank containing species of the Brazilian aquatic fauna that have been subjected to toxicity tests with all kinds of water contaminants. As a result of this effort, a databank had been generated and made electronically available to scientists, stakeholders, decision makers and the whole society. This toxicology databank actually contains a listing of approximately 500 entries with aquatic animals from different groups. The databank also contains the characteristics of the toxicity tests used. Such tool is already available and it will be of great value not only for the selection of bioindicators to be used in the standard toxicity tests in laboratory for biomarkers analysis by INCT-TA, but also for all scientists and decision makers when discussing and formulating public politics regarding the water resources conservation in Brazil.

In addition to the toxicology databank generated, the INCT-TA is developing new methods and techniques to analyze aquatic contamination. These products are being described in the specialized literature at both national and international level. Also, researchers from INCT-TA are expecting to identify and standardize biomarkers of aquatic contamination for metals, pesticides, hydrocarbons and domestic sewage. Therefore, new standardized biomarkers or adaptations from classic biomarkers will be also considered as technological products for a potential use in water quality evaluation and monitoring of freshwater and coastal ecosystems. For example, it can be mentioned the possibility to identify a biological model for monitoring the producing water during oil exploitation by Petrobras. Despite the fact that the Brazilian regulation requires such monitoring, adequate and calibrated tools are not available for this purpose. Finally, the main INCT-TA objective is to identify adequate biological tools to refine the environmental monitoring programs. Therefore, INCT-TA is aiming to suggest new strategies, scientifically based, to help decision makers in the formulation of public politics for the adequate preservation of Brazilian water resources.

Managing Committee

The Managing Committee administrates the INCT-TA and is responsible for the establishment of goals, planning of activities and budget application. This Committee is supported by an Administrative Secretariat and is composed by six researchers involved in the INCT-TA program. The President of the Committee is the INCT-TA Coordinator. In addition, two external consulting (one national and one international) are participating in the Committee. Therefore, the Committee is organized as following:

  • Prof. Dr. Adalto Bianchini – FURG (INCT-TA Coordinator – President of the Committee)
  • Prof. Dr. Afonso Celso Dias Bainy – UFSC (INCT-TA Vice-Coordinator)
  • Profa. Dra. Helena Cristina da Silva de Assis – UFPR
  • Profa. Dra. Cláudia Bueno dos Reis Martinez - UEL
  • Profa. Dra. Marisa Narciso Fernandes – UFSCAR
  • Prof. Dr. Paulo Sérgio Martins de Carvalho – UFPE
  • Dr. Ademilson Josemar Zamboni – Brazilian Ministry of Environment
  • Prof. Dr. Christopher M. Wood – McMaster University (Canada)

Organizational and Functional Structure

The headquarter of the National Institute of Aquatic Toxicology (INCT-TA) is the Federal University of Rio Grande (FURG, Rio Grande, RS) (Fig. 1). Actually, this Institute has laboratories associated from the following teaching and research institutions: Federal Unversity of Santa Catarina (UFSC, Florianópolis, SC), Federal University of Paraná (UFPR, Curitiba, PR), State University of Londrina (UEL, Londrina, PR), Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCAR, São Carlos, SP) and Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE, Recife, PE). The Institute has also the support from an Administrative Secretariat located at the Institute of Biological Sciences from the Federal University Rio Grande (Rio Grande, RS). The partners laboratories are listed below:

Organizational structure of the National Institute of Aquatic Toxicology.

Figure 1. Organizational structure of the National Institute of Aquatic Toxicology.

The Managing Committee administrates the INCT-TA. This Committee is responsible for the annual establishment of goals, activities planning and budget application. This Committee has support from the Administrative Secretariat (Fig. 2).

INCT-TA headquarter is composed of researchers, technicians and students from the Laboratory of Zoophysiology of the Institute of Biological Sciences and the Laboratory of Organic Microcontaminants and Aquatic Ecotoxicology of the Institute of Oceanography of the Federal University of Rio Grande. The Coordinator of the Institute is the responsible for the research group at the Institute headquarter. He has support from the Administrative Secretariat to deal with the admnistrative issues.

INCT-TA's Associated Groups are organized by partner Institution and are composed of all researchers, technicians and students involved in the Institute program at the respective Institution. Each Associated Group has a responsible researcher at the respective Institution and is directly linked to the INCT-TA headquarter. Therefore, INCT-TA has 5 Associated Groups:

  • 1)Associated Group – UFSC: composed of researchers, technicians and students from the Laboratory of Biomarkers of Aquatic Contamination and Immunochemistry of the Department of Biochemistry of the Federal University of Santa Catarina.

  • 2)Associated Group – UFPR: composed of researchers, technicians and students from the Laboratory of Comparative Physiology of Osmoregulation of the Department of Physiology, the Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology of the Department of Pharmacology, the Laboratory of Animal Cytogenetics of the Department of Genetics, and the Laboratory of Cellular Toxicology of the Department of Cell Biology of the Federal University of Paraná.

  • 3)Associated Group – UEL: composed of researchers, technicians and students from the Laboratory Animal Ecophysiology of the Department of Physiological Sciences of the State University of Londrina.

  • 4)Associated Group – UFSCAR: composed of researchers, technicians and students from the Laboratory of Zoophysiology and Comparative Biochemistry of the Department of Physiological Sciences of the Federal University of São Carlos.

  • 5)Associated Groups – UFPE: composed of researchers, technicians and students from the Laboratory of Aquatic Ecotoxicology of the Department of Zoology of the Federal University of Pernambuco.

Functional structure of the National Institute of Aquatic Toxicology.

Figure 2. Functional structure of the National Institute of Aquatic Toxicology.

The following researchers are responsible for the Associated Groups:

  • Associated Group – UFSC – Prof. Dr. Afonso Celso Dias Bainy
  • Associated Group – UFPR – Profa. Dra. Helena Cristina da Silva de Assis
  • Associated Group – UEL – Profa. Dra. Cláudia Bueno dos Reis Martinez
  • Associated Group – UFSCAR – Profa. Dra. Marisa Narciso Fernandes
  • Associated Group – UFPE – Prof. Dr. Paulo Sérgio Martins de Carvalho