New research published in two BioMed Central journals shows that copper contamination has a detrimental effect by interfering with the energy metabolism of the exposed invertebrates and that different pollutants have unique molecular effects, with implications for both monitoring and remediation of toxins.
The earthworm Lumbricus rubellus has long been known as an ‘ecosystem engineer’ for the role it plays in water, nutrient and carbon cycling in a range of tropical and temperate soils, and is widely used as a model organism for soil testing. However, standard lab assays do not reveal the molecular mechanisms by which L. rubellus adapts to exposure to soil contaminants. Although the L. rubellus genome has not yet been sequenced, a comprehensive expressed sequence tag dataset is now available (www.earthworm.org) that enables the development of tools that bring the earthworm into the genomics arena.
Two teams, funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council and led by Peter Kille of Cardiff University, have jointly published their research on the use of a systems toxicology approach to understanding the impact of four soil contaminants on L. rubellus in the open access journals, BMC Biology and BMC Genomics. Using a new 8,000-element microarray, they describe the transcriptome profile of L. rubellus exposed to copper, cadmium, the polyaromatic hydrocarbon fluoroanthene, and the agrochemical atrazine. In both studies this approach revealed subtle changes induced by the toxic chemicals in earthworm gene expression patterns. The second study, which specifically focused on copper exposure, extended the approach by identifying the consequences of the genetic changes in terms of altered metabolism (impact to their metabolomic profile) in conjunction with large-scale physical changes in worm health.
The molecular approach to monitor ecosystem effects of toxins described in these two papers allows us to understand not only the uniqueness of earthworms, given that many of the genes they express do not yet have equivalents in ‘model’ organisms, but is also an important step towards the better understanding of how the earthworm has evolved adaptive mechanisms to deal with soil pollution.
This multidisciplinary research shows that a systems approach to ecotoxicology, combining technologies usually used in isolation, can be a powerful tool for understanding the response of an ecologically important organism to contaminants, and opens up the possibility of new and more effective soil monitoring and bioremediation strategies.
Dr Kille concluded “The ubiquitous nature of the earthworm makes it an accepted part of our everyday world. People don’t ask themselves how worms survive in soil where the pH naturally ranges from acidic pet bogs at pH 4 to chalk downs at pH 8 or where intensively farming requires significant use of agrochemicals/pesticides or within highly contaminated ex-industrial sites. Our research illustrates how exploiting genomics and metabolomics reveals the mechanics that allow this organism to be omnipresent in our terrestrial environment.”
Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
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