Rise of the mutants

Butterflies near Fukushima plant are developing abnormalities

 
By Tiasa Adhya
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015 | 02:50:09 AM

A healthy pale grass blue butterflyWHEN the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant malfunctioned after the devastating tsunami in March last year, it left the scientific community jittery over the noxious effects the radiations might have on the biodiversity in Japan, and beyond. It seems the fears were not unfounded.

Researchers at the University of Ryukyus, Okinawa, have found that pale grass blue butterflies, Zizeeria maha, in regions near the nuclear plant are undergoing harmful mutations. In Motomiya, Iwaki, the mutations are higher in number. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports on August 9.

It states that some butterflies have developed abnormalities like dented eyes, stunted and wrinkled wings, change in wing size and spot patterns and a misshapen palpus, a sensory organ the insect also uses for feeding.

A mutated varietyResearchers say such mutant butterflies are more common near the nuclear plant than in areas away from it. They conducted a short-term survey. “Assessments of the long-term effect of the radiation need to be monitored,” says Joji Otaki, co-author of the study.

When researchers mated abnormal butterflies with the healthy ones, the result was alarming. The offsprings exhibited more pronounced physical anomalies than their parents. This clearly shows that the genetic damage caused by nuclear radiation is inherited by subsequent generations of butterflies and might cause permanent physiological anomalies in the species.

Spiders, dragonflies, damselflies, praying mantis, ants and small lizards prey on the adults of this species while wasps and bugs consume their eggs and larvae. The researchers are concerned about the effects these mutant butterflies might have on these predators connected to them via the food chain.

Krushnamegh Kunte, a Ramanujan fellow and faculty member at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, says this is difficult to predict. “The research paper seems to suggest that the effects observed are mostly at genetic and developmental levels. This alone is unlikely to affect the predators,” he points out.

The implications of the radiations in human beings are unknown as yet but a recent study published in Journal of the American Medical Association stated that residents of Minamisoma, a town near the Fukushima nuclear plant, were still exposed to radioactive cesium six months after the disaster.

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  • Role of Mutants in the Light

    Role of Mutants in the Light of Oxidative Dehydration Theory on Health, Disease & Aging

    The mutagenic impact of radiations on biodiversity observed at the macroenvironment of the site in Japan where the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant malfunctioned after the devastating tsunami in March 2011, are in fact due to the oxidative dehydration stress (OD-S) induced in the nano and picoenvironment of the vulnerable organisms [Life Processes, Health Aging & Diseases, An Ecosystem Approach to Life Processes, Mirza Arshad Ali Beg, 2012, Research & Development Publications, Karachi]. The finding that the pale grass blue butterflies, Zizeeria maha in regions near the nuclear plant are undergoing harmful mutations, is in line with the theory on Oxidative Dehydration induced stress developed in the mid-1980s.

    The theory holds that interaction with xenobiotics, including bacteria, viruses, chemicals, radiation and radioactive substances, besides the many medications and drugs, which include the analgesics and antibiotics, involves strong oxidation reactions. Their interaction with living processes, in parallel with non-living systems results in removal of free energy from the cellular environment and is cause for Oxidative dehydration induced stress: OD-S in the nanoenvironment and picoenvironment.

    The stress created by strong oxidants is largely on the enzymic functions. The latter maintain a critical balance between pro- and anti-oxidant forces that in fact is the Oxidative Dehydration induced Stress-Reversal by Reductive Rehydration (OD-S-RR) process operating in the body to sustain the state of health..In catabolic processes, the oxidative dehydration induced stress increases the entropy ΔS, reduces the driving force ΔF and creates oxygen deficiency in the nano environment and pico environment. The anabolic reactions, on the other hand, are regarded as proceeding by reductive rehydration to restore and upgrade the status of free energy/driving force ΔF potential, balance the O2:CO2 level in blood stream, and remove the oxygen deficiency.

    Oxidant molecules, radicals and ions (Cesium in the case of environment charged with radioactivity) can attack DNA and cause changes in their molecular structure. These changes in molecular structure of the DNA lead to genetic damage and to mutations. They are part of the toxico-dynamic phase. Among the several consequences of these reactions are tumour development, and cancerous growth and mutagenic changes.

    Physiological mechanisms involved in pharmacokinetic changes extend over a series of processes that lead to xenobiotic detoxification. The latter processes often result in increasing the amount of resistant strains, which is attributed to increased quantity and/or increased efficiency of detoxification enzymes, since lower amounts of xenobiotics reach the target site. There are a series of detoxifying reactions, so that one species can have several different mechanisms of detoxification resistance.

    The targets of toxicity which quite often are enzymes, receptor proteins, or ion channels can be altered qualitatively e.g. by having lower affinity for the xenobiotics, so that greater amounts of toxicants reach the target to annihilate the living processes completely. These constitute the reductive rehydration processes.

    Resistance to detoxification can also be caused by a single mechanism, as has been observed for many genes in mosquitoes and house flies. Metabolism studies in the larvae and synergist studies in the adult Anophelis stephensi from Pakistan have indicated that malathion resistance in this population is due to degradation of the carboxylester linkage of malathion pesticide. Resistance to detoxification has also been shown to be inherited monofactorially.

    Changes in protein quality or quantity that cause resistance to detoxification are inherited as alleles that vary from the normal type. Resistance through mutation of a single codon in a structural gene has been shown to result in an insensitive target protein, which is changed by substitution in an amino acid chain.

    It has been shown that genetic changes at any of several levels can cause increase in detoxification of enzymes. The quantity of protein with unchanged structure can be increased by 1) gene duplication or amplification, in which a living organism acquires multiple copies of the same gene, 2) increased gene transcription, which may result from a mutation of a regulatory sequence, or 3) increased translation due to mutation in the processing rate of mRNA.

    Altered quality of protein e.g. changed catalytic centre activity can result a) from changes in the structural gene coding protein sequence, or 2) from processing or regulatory gene changes. Similar alterations are possible for proteins, which might have their affinity for the xenobiotic/chemical/pesticide/ion/radical or by having their number reduced to provide a lower sensitivity. Amplification of the carboxylester hydrolase gene responsible for 250 times the normal number of gene copies has been found to be a genetic mechanism of resistance to organophosphurus insecticides in mosquitoes.

    Carcinogenesis and mutagenesis are multistage processes initiated by interaction of a carcinogen with critical targets in DNA. The damages to the DNA result in structural changes in the chromosomes and are relevant to the initiation steps of carcinogenesis mentioned above and not so much to point mutations.

    An example of genetic damage is provided by the spraying of mosquitoes with pesticides. The aerial spraying aims at showering the mosquito infestations with malathion and also dibrom. The mosquitoes get hit with what could be only a droplet of the pesticide spray, but all of them do not necessarily die. They nevertheless do not remain among the healthiest after being hit during the spray. Both the pesticides malathion and dibrom have been found to cause genetic damage in tests on living cells. Malathion has been shown to cause premature gene loss, and also to literally cause genes to break off the DNA molecule, a phenomenon known as gene deletion.

    Genetic damage caused by Oxidative Dehydration induced Stress continues with each time a mosquito spray plane or truck sprays malathion and dibrom. The risk of increasing the amount of subtle genetic damage in the mosquito population, and hence of increasing the number of mosquitoes with genetic flaws rises with subsequent sprays. The population of mosquitoes which have had significant genetic damages done to them due to high level of gene splicing xenobiotics/pesticides exposure rises in areas where they are extensively sprayed. This allows the encephalitis virus to have firm hold and to grow more rapidly. This could be one reason for the Dengue virus continuing to resist the pesticide attack.

    Likewise the population of butterfies which have had significant genetic damages done to them due to high level of gene splicing radiation exposure, has been raised in areas where they have been extensively exposed to the harmful impact of radioactive emissions.

    The stresses produced by Oxidative Dehydration induced Stress are restrained from reversal by the Reductive Rehydration process (OD-S-RR) operating in the body to sustain the state of health. This explains why there is a rise in the encephalitis infection and also provides reason for the resurgence of West Nile Virus in the United States and for emergence as well as outbreak of Dengue Fever incidence in Pakistan.

    The observation that such mutant butterflies are more common near the nuclear plant than in areas away from it suggests 1) that the genetic damage is localized to the microenvironment of incidence of tsunami, 2) that it is continuing because the genetic modification is being effected in the nano and picoenvironment of the cells where interactions take place by exchange of free energy, and 3) that the genetically damaged organisms are charged with higher energy potential and hence can induce oxidative dehydration with each mating with the normal or abnormal organisms in the charged environment. This supports the thesis that the genetic damage caused by nuclear radiation is at the nano and picoenvironment at the cellular level and that the deficiency in free energy is likely to continue in the next generation. The implications are that the subsequent generations of the prey and predators would inherit the deficiency as well as genetic damage and would cause permanent physiological anomalies in the species concerned.

    The risk of increasing the amount of subtle genetic damage is expected to be high in degree as well as kind of incidence among the population of predators including spiders, dragonflies, damselflies, preying mantis, ants and small lizards that prey on the adults of this species, and among the wasps and bugs that consume their eggs and larvae. The impact that the genetically damaged butterflies may have on these predators which form part of the food chain, is expected to be significant and hence increasing the number of predators with genetic flaws would rise with subsequent exposure. The population of prey and predators, which have had significant genetic damages done to them due to high level of gene splicing would consequently rise in areas where they are extensively exposed. This allows the incidence of genetic damage to perpetuate and the genetically damaged organisms to grow more rapidly. This also explains why there is a rise in the encephalitis infection in Pakistan and of West Nile Virus in the USA.

    Dr. Mirza Arshad Ali Beg
    Former Director General PCSIR Karachi Pakistan
    Author of Books: 1. Life Processes, Health Aging & Diseases, An Ecosystem Approach to Life Processes, Mirza Arshad Ali Beg, 2012, Research & Development Publications, Karachi, Pakistan, and also
    2. Pesticides, Toxicity, Specificity and Politics, Mirza Arshad Ali Beg, 2006, Research & Development Publications, Karachi, Pakistan.

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