John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Effects of a natural toxin on life‐history and gene expression of Eisenia andrei

Earthworms perform key functions for a healthy soil ecosystem, such as bioturbation. The soil ecosystem can be challenged by natural toxins such as isothiocyanates (ITC), produced by many commercial crops. Therefore, the effects of 2‐phenylethyl ITC were investigated on the earthworm Eisenia andrei using an ecotoxicogenomics approach. Exposure to 2‐Phenylethyl ITC reduced both survival and reproduction of E. andrei in a dose‐dependent manner (EC50 = 556 nmol/g). Cross‐species comparative genomic hybridisation validated the applicability of an existing 4 × 44k E. fetida microarray to E. andrei. Gene expression profiles revealed the importance of metallothionein (mt) as an early warning signal when E. andrei was exposed to low concentrations of 2‐phenylethyl ITC. Alignment of these mt genes with the mt‐2 gene of Lumbricus rubellus showed that at least two mt gene clusters are present in the Eisenia sp. genome. At high exposure concentration gene expression was mainly affected by inhibiting chitinase activity, inducing an oxidative stress response, and stimulating energy metabolism. KEGG pathway analysis, furthermore, implied that the high concentration may have caused impaired light sensitivity, angiogenesis, olfactory perception, learning and memory. Increased levels of ITC may be found in the field in the near future. The presented results call for a careful investigation to quantify the risk of such compounds before allowing them to enter the soil on a large scale. Environ Toxicol Chem © 2013 SETAC

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