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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2014 Apr;33(4):900-9. doi: 10.1002/etc.2508. Epub 2014 Feb 26.

Integrating transcriptomics into triad-based soil-quality assessment.

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Department of Ecological Science, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The present study examined how transcriptomics tools can be included in a triad-based soil-quality assessment to assess the toxicity of soils from riverbanks polluted by metals. To that end, the authors measured chemical soil properties and used the International Organization for Standardization guideline for ecotoxicological tests and a newly developed microarray for gene expression in the indicator soil arthropod Folsomia candida. Microarray analysis revealed that the oxidative stress response pathway was significantly affected in all soils except one. The data indicate that changes in cell redox homeostasis are a significant signature of metal stress. Finally, 32 genes showed significant dose-dependent expression with metal concentrations. They are promising genetic markers providing an early indication of the need for higher-tier testing of soil quality. During the bioassay, the toxicity of the least polluted soils could be removed by sterilization. The gene expression profile for this soil did not show a metal-related signature, confirming that a factor other than metals (most likely of biological origin) caused the toxicity. The present study demonstrates the feasibility and advantages of integrating transcriptomics into triad-based soil-quality assessment. Combining molecular and organismal life-history trait stress responses helps to identify causes of adverse effects in bioassays. Further validation is needed for verifying the set of genes with dose-dependent expression patterns linked with toxic stress.


Ecotoxicology; Folsomia candida; Oxidative stress; Soil contamination; Transcriptomics

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