Increased cytotoxic and genotoxic tolerance of Eisenia fetida (Oligochaeta) to cadmium after long-term exposure.

Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland, 7602, South Africa.
Ecotoxicology (Impact Factor: 2.5). 09/2009; 19(2):362-8. DOI: 10.1007/s10646-009-0418-y
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Since life-cycle studies showed that the earthworm species Eisenia fetida can develop increased tolerance after long-term exposure to a sub-lethal concentration of Cd in the laboratory, we assessed both the cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of Cd in a long-term Cd-exposed population. We exposed E. fetida specimens from this population, from a laboratory control population and from a field population to various concentrations of CdSO(4) in artificial soil water. Toxic effects were measured using the MTT test and the comet assay. The group that had been exposed to Cd for more than a decade was found to be more tolerant to the deleterious effects of Cd at both cellular and molecular levels than the laboratory control population. The field population, which came from a severely metal polluted environment, displayed high tolerance at molecular level as well. The results provide novel biomarker evidence of increased Cd tolerance in E. fetida, but the mechanisms supporting the apparent tolerance, still need to be clarified.

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    ABSTRACT: DNA barcoding was used to investigate the phylogenetic delimitations of Eisenia sp. populations used in ecotoxicological research in South Africa. A total of three focal groups (used in published works) and two non-focal groups were assessed. These focal groups, including two laboratory cultures and one field population, have been referred to as Eisenia fetida in the literature. A previous molecular study had already helped to establish that one of the two laboratory groups was a population of E. fetida's sister species E. andrei. In the present contribution, analyses of the COI gene revealed that the taxonomy of the remaining laboratory and field populations had also been incorrectly assigned since all the generated sequences grouped unequivocally with published sequences of E. andrei. Very high sequence divergence (>25% K2P) found within E. andrei could signal the occurrence of hitherto undescribed cryptic species. These findings are discussed with an emphasis on the possible consequences of using poorly identified earthworms or specimens with high molecular divergence in ecotoxicological bioassays. It is not clear whether unbeknownst to the researchers, the use of cryptic species in bioassays could jeopardise the quality of ecotoxicological investigations. Early evidence suggests that cryptic oligochaete species may respond differently to metal toxicity. The need for comparative ecotoxicological studies between E. andrei and E. fetida is also evidenced, especially in the light of recent numerous reports of cryptic oligochaete species. Ecotoxicologists are consequently encouraged, whenever possible, to make use of available genomic technologies to screen their laboratory stocks and available field populations for any molecular distinctiveness.
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