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Chemosphere. 2005 Oct;61(2):229-37.

Expression profiling of five different xenobiotics using a Caenorhabditis elegans whole genome microarray.

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  • 1Institute of Biology, Ecotoxicology and Biochemistry, Free University Berlin, Ehrenbergstrasse 26-28, 14195 Berlin, Germany. kerstinpost@web.de


The soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is frequently used in ecotoxicological studies due to its wide distribution in terrestrial habitats, its easy handling in the laboratory, and its sensitivity against different kinds of stress. Since its genome has been completely sequenced, more and more studies are investigating the functional relation of gene expression and phenotypic response. For these reasons C. elegans seems to be an attractive animal for the development of a new, genome based, ecotoxicological test system. In recent years, the DNA array technique has been established as a powerful tool to obtain distinct gene expression patterns in response to different experimental conditions. Using a C. elegans whole genome DNA microarray in this study, the effects of five different xenobiotics on the gene expression of the nematode were investigated. The exposure time for the following five applied compounds beta-NF (5 mg/l), Fla (0.5 mg/l), atrazine (25 mg/l), clofibrate (10 mg/l) and DES (0.5 mg/l) was 48+/-5 h. The analysis of the data showed a clear induction of 203 genes belonging to different families like the cytochromes P450, UDP-glucoronosyltransferases (UDPGT), glutathione S-transferases (GST), carboxylesterases, collagenes, C-type lectins and others. Under the applied conditions, fluoranthene was able to induce most of the induceable genes, followed by clofibrate, atrazine, beta-naphthoflavone and diethylstilbestrol. A decreased expression could be shown for 153 genes with atrazine having the strongest effect followed by fluoranthene, diethylstilbestrol, beta-naphthoflavone and clofibrate. For upregulated genes a change ranging from approximately 2.1- till 42.3-fold and for downregulated genes from approximately 2.1 till 6.6-fold of gene expression could be affected through the applied xenobiotics. The results confirm the applicability of the gene expression for the development of an ecotoxicological test system. Compared to classical tests the main advantages of this new approach will be the increased sensitivity and it's potential for a substance class specific effect determination as well as the large numbers of genes that can be screened rapidly at the same time and the selection of well regulated marker genes to study more in detail.

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