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Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 1997 Jan;32(1):110-4.

Tolerance of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to pH, salinity, and hardness in aquatic media.

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  • 1Environmental Health Science Program, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602-2102, USA.


The toxicity of many chemicals depends on the physical conditions of the test environment, and any change or adjustment made to the tests can alter the results. Therefore it is important to establish the sensitivity of the test organism over a range of test conditions to determine when it is necessary to make adjustment and to what extent. In this study, we established the tolerance range of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans for pH, salinity and hardness using 24- (without food source) and 96-h (with food source) aquatic toxicity tests. The tests were performed in two media: K-medium and moderately hard reconstituted water (MHRW). C.elegans has high tolerance under these test conditions. In K-medium worms survived a pH range of 3.1 to 11.9 for 24 h and 3.2 to 11.8 for 96 h without significant (p > 0.05) lethality. In MHRW the pH range was 3. 4 to 11.9 for 24 h and 3.4 to 11.7 for 96 h. Salinity tolerance tests were approximated with NaCl and KCl individually. Up to 15.46 g/L NaCl and 11.51 g/L KCl were tolerated by C. elegans in K-medium without significant lethality (p> 0.05). In MHRW higher salt concentrations were tolerated; about 20.5 g/L NaCl and 18.85 g/L KCl did not show any adverse effect compared to control. Hardness tolerance was tested by adding NaHCO3. The nematode could tolerate 0. 236 to 0.246 g/L of NaHCO3. The high tolerance of C. elegans to these test conditions (pH, salinity, and hardness) allows more versatility than other organisms commonly used in aquatic toxicity tests. It also allows the monitoring of effluents and receiving waters from freshwater or estuarine sources without dilution or adjustment.

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