Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Earthworm Detectives Provide Genetic Clues For Dealing With Soil Pollution

Date:
June 8, 2008
Source:
BioMed Central
Summary:
The humble earthworm provides a new sensitive and detailed picture of what is going on in our contaminated soil ecosystems. New research 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 humble earthworm.
Credit: Dr A. John Morgan, Cardiff University

The humble earthworm, famously acknowledged by Charles Darwin when he wrote "It may be doubted whether there are many other animals ... which have played so important a part in the history of the world", provides a new sensitive and detailed picture of what is going on in our contaminated soil ecosystems. New research 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 (http://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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by BioMed Central. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Jacob G Bundy, Jasmin K Sidhu, Faisal Rana, David J Spurgeon, Claus Svendsen, Jodie F Wren, Stephen R Sturzenbaum, A John Morgan and Peter Kille. Systems toxicology' approach identifies coordinated metabolic responses to copper in a terrestrial non-model invertebrate, the earthworm Lumbricus rubellus. BMC Biology, (in press)
  2. Jennifer Owen, B Ann Hedley, Claus Svendsen, Jodie Wren, Martijs M Jonker, Peter K Hankard, Linsey J Lister, Stephen R Stόrzenbaum, A John Morgan, David J Spurgeon, Mark L Blaxter and Peter Kille. Transcriptome profiling of developmental and xenobiotic responses in a keystone soil animal, the oligochaete annelid Lumbricus rubellus. BMC Genomics, (in press)

Cite This Page:

BioMed Central. "Earthworm Detectives Provide Genetic Clues For Dealing With Soil Pollution." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080602214125.htm>.
BioMed Central. (2008, June 8). Earthworm Detectives Provide Genetic Clues For Dealing With Soil Pollution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080602214125.htm
BioMed Central. "Earthworm Detectives Provide Genetic Clues For Dealing With Soil Pollution." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080602214125.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) — Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) — Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) — Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins