Development of a transcription-based bioanalytical tool to quantify the toxic potencies of hydrophilic compounds in water using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans

Antoine Karengera*, Cong Bao, Joost A.G. Riksen, H.P.J. van Veelen, Mark G. Sterken, Jan E. Kammenga, Albertinka J. Murk, Inez J.T. Dinkla

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Low concentrations of environmental contaminants can be difficult to detect with current analytical tools, yet they may pose a risk to human and environmental health. The development of bioanalytical tools can help to quantify toxic potencies of biologically active compounds even of hydrophilic contaminants that are hard to extract from water samples. In this study, we exposed the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans synchronized in larval stage L4 to hydrophilic compounds via the water phase and analyzed the effect on gene transcription abundance. The nematodes were exposed to three direct-acting genotoxicants (1 mM and 5 mM): N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU), formaldehyde (HCHO), and methyl methanesulfonate (MMS). Genome-wide gene expression analysis using microarrays revealed significantly altered transcription levels of 495 genes for HCHO, 285 genes for ENU, and 569 genes for MMS in a concentration-dependent manner. A relatively high number of differentially expressed genes was downregulated, suggesting a general stress in nematodes treated with toxicants. Gene ontology and Kyoto encyclopedia of genes and genomes analysis demonstrated that the upregulated genes were primarily associated with metabolism, xenobiotic detoxification, proteotoxic stress, and innate immune response. Interestingly, genes downregulated by MMS were linked to the inhibition of neurotransmission, and this is in accordance with the observed decreased locomotion in MMS-exposed nematodes. Unexpectedly, the expression level of DNA damage response genes such as cell-cycle checkpoints or DNA-repair proteins were not altered. Overall, the current study shows that gene expression profiling of nematodes can be used to identify the potential mechanisms underlying the toxicity of chemical compounds. C. elegans is a promising test organism to further develop into a bioanalytical tool for quantification of the toxic potency of a wide array of hydrophilic contaminants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112923
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Volume227
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Bioanalytical tool
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Gene expression
  • Genotoxicants
  • Hydrophilic
  • Nematode

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