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PLoS One. 2013 Sep 6;8(9):e72098. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072098. eCollection 2013.

Effects of ionizing radiation on embryos of the tardigrade Milnesium cf. tardigradum at different stages of development.

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Instituto de Genética Humana, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia ; Department of Molecular Biosciences, The Wenner-Gren Institute, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.


Tardigrades represent one of the most desiccation and radiation tolerant animals on Earth, and several studies have documented their tolerance in the adult stage. Studies on tolerance during embryological stages are rare, but differential effects of desiccation and freezing on different developmental stages have been reported, as well as dose-dependent effect of gamma irradiation on tardigrade embryos. Here, we report a study evaluating the tolerance of eggs from the eutardigrade Milnesium cf. tardigradum to three doses of gamma radiation (50, 200 and 500 Gy) at the early, middle, and late stage of development. We found that embryos of the middle and late developmental stages were tolerant to all doses, while eggs in the early developmental stage were tolerant only to a dose of 50 Gy, and showed a declining survival with higher dose. We also observed a delay in development of irradiated eggs, suggesting that periods of DNA repair might have taken place after irradiation induced damage. The delay was independent of dose for eggs irradiated in the middle and late stage, possibly indicating a fixed developmental schedule for repair after induced damage. These results show that the tolerance to radiation in tardigrade eggs changes in the course of their development. The mechanisms behind this pattern are unknown, but may relate to changes in mitotic activities over the embryogenesis and/or to activation of response mechanisms to damaged DNA in the course of development.

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