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Aquat Toxicol. 2004 Apr 14;67(2):143-54.

Ecotoxicogenomics: the challenge of integrating genomics into aquatic and terrestrial ecotoxicology.

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  • 1AstraZeneca Global Safety Health and Environment, Brixham Environmental Laboratory, Freshwater Quarry, Brixham, Devon TQ5 8BA, UK. jason.snape@brixham.astrazeneca.com

Abstract

Rapid progress in the field of genomics (the study of how an individual's entire genetic make-up, the genome, translates into biological functions) is beginning to provide tools that may assist our understanding of how chemicals can impact on human and ecosystem health. In many ways, if scientific and regulatory efforts in the 20th century have sought to establish which chemicals cause damage to ecosystems, then the challenge in ecotoxicology for the 21st century is to understand the mechanisms of toxicity to different wildlife species. In the human context, 'toxicogenomics' is the study of expression of genes important in adaptive responses to toxic exposures and a reflection of the toxic processes per se. Given the parallel implications for ecological (environmental) risk assessment, we propose the term 'ecotoxicogenomics' to describe the integration of genomics (transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics) into ecotoxicology. Ecotoxicogenomics is defined as the study of gene and protein expression in non-target organisms that is important in responses to environmental toxicant exposures. The potential of ecotoxicogenomic tools in ecological risk assessment seems great. Many of the standardized methods used to assess potential impact of chemicals on aquatic organisms rely on measuring whole-organism responses (e.g. mortality, growth, reproduction) of generally sensitive indicator species at maintained concentrations, and deriving 'endpoints' based on these phenomena (e.g. median lethal concentrations, no observed effect concentrations, etc.). Whilst such phenomenological approaches are useful for identifying chemicals of potential concern they provide little understanding of the mechanism of chemical toxicity. Without this understanding, it will be difficult to address some of the key challenges that currently face aquatic ecotoxicology, e.g. predicting toxicant responses across the very broad diversity of the phylogenetic groups present in aquatic ecosystems; estimating how changes at one ecological level or organisation will affect other levels (e.g. predicting population-level effects); predicting the influence of time-varying exposure on toxicant responses. Ecotoxicogenomic tools may provide us with a better mechanistic understanding of aquatic ecotoxicology. For ecotoxicogenomics to fulfil its potential, collaborative efforts are necessary through the parallel use of model microorganisms (e.g. Saccharomyces cerevisiae) together with aquatic (e.g. Danio rerio, Daphnia magna, Lemna minor and Xenopus tropicalis) and terrestrial (e.g. Arabidopsis thailiana, Caenorhabdites elegans and Eisenia foetida) plants, animals and microorganisms.

PMID:
15003699
DOI:
10.1016/j.aquatox.2003.11.011
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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