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A novel use of the leukocyte coping capacity assay to assess the immunomodulatory effects of organohalogenated contaminants in avian wildlife
Apex predators are characterized by high levels of biomagnifying organohalogenated contaminants (OHCs) which have been found to induce detrimental health effects in wildlife, such as immune system impairment. The leukocyte coping capacity (LCC) assay is a functional real-time measure of an innate immune response essential in pathogen resistance, known as the respiratory burst. The current study suggests the novel use of this tool to test whether OHCs impair the innate immune system of a sentinel top predator, the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla; WTE). The LCC analysis was performed in the field on WTE nestlings (n = 84) from northern Norway over two breeding seasons. Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) dominated the total OHC load, surpassing the levels of legacy organochlorines. In addition, we detected significant negative correlations between concentrations of all polychlorinated biphenyls, p,p′-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene, perfluorohexane sulfonic acid and long-chain perfluorocarboxylic acids and the LCC of WTE nestlings. Based on our current findings reflecting a potential negative effect of both emerging and legacy OHCs on innate immune capacity, we suggest LCC to be a relevant and accessible test expanding the ecotoxicological toolbox to assess sub-lethal effects of OHCs in apex avian wildlife.