Journal of environmental science and health. Part A, Toxic/hazardous substances & environmental engineering

An in ovo investigation into the hepatotoxicity of cadmium and chromium evaluated with light- and transmission electron microscopy and electron energy-loss spectroscopy.

PMID 26030689


Excessive agriculture, transport and mining often lead to the contamination of valuable water resources. Communities using this water for drinking, washing, bathing and the irrigation of crops are continuously being exposed to these heavy metals. The most vulnerable is the developing fetus. Cadmium (Cd) and chrome (Cr) were identified as two of the most prevalent heavy metal water contaminants in South Africa. In this study, chicken embryos at the stage of early organogenesis were exposed to a single dosage of 0.430 μM physiological dosage (PD) and 430 μM (×1000 PD) CdCl2, as well as 0.476 μM (PD) and 746 μM (×1000 PD) K2Cr2O7. At day 14, when all organ systems were completely developed, the embryos were terminated and the effect of these metals on liver tissue and cellular morphology was determined with light- and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The intracellular localization of these metals was determined using electron energy-loss spectroscopy (EELS). With light microscopy, the PD of both Cd and Cr had no effect on liver tissue or cellular morphology. At ×1000 PD both Cd and Cr caused sinusoid dilation and tissue necrosis. With TEM analysis, Cd exposed hepatocytes presented with irregular chromatin condensation, ruptured cellular membranes and damaged or absent organelles. In contrast Cr caused only slight mitochondrial damage. EELS revealed the bio-accumulation of Cd and Cr along the cristae of the mitochondria and chromatin of the nuclei.