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Environ Pollut. 2006 Jul;142(2):373-81. Epub 2005 Nov 23.

Heavy metals affect the coelomocyte-bacteria balance in earthworms: environmental interactions between abiotic and biotic stressors.

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  • 1Department of Evolutionary Immunobiology, Institute of Zoology, Jagiellonian University, R. Ingardena 6, PL 30-060 Krakow, Poland.


Three-day dermal exposure of Dendrobaena veneta to metal ions differentially disrupts the immunocompetence/pathogen balance. Zn does not accumulate in the earthworm body, Cu accumulation is temperature-independent while Cd accumulation is stronger at 22 degrees C than at 10 degrees C. During in vitro incubation with metal ions at 22 degrees C, growth of coelom-derived bacteria is enhanced by Zn, but significantly or almost completely inhibited by Cu or Cd. In contrast, under in vivo conditions at 22 degrees C, bacterial load is decreased only after Cd exposure, but increased after Zn and Cu exposures. At 10 degrees C bacteria growth is almost completely inhibited in all groups except Cu-treated animals. Coelomocyte number is unaffected in animals exposed to Zn, but significantly decreased after exposure to Cd (at 22 degrees C) and Cu (at 22 degrees C and 10 degrees C) with concomitant changes of amoebocyte-to-eleocyte ratio in favour of amoebocytes. Metal exposure up-regulates expression of metallothioneins in coelomocytes, mainly amoebocytes.

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