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Use of genomic and proteomic tools for the development of contaminant specific biomarkers for the environmental risk assessment of aquatic ecosystems

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Developing interspecies biomarkers

As the number of synthetic chemicals discharged into the environment continues to grow, it is important that their effects are measured. An EU-funded initiative addressed this issue developing a cheaper and simpler alternative to traditional laboratory-based tests.

Climate Change and Environment

New high-throughput techniques such as transcriptomics and proteomics, and powerful bioinformatics tools, have enormous potential for investigating toxic processes at the gene and protein levels. Therefore, the field of ecotoxicology, which studies the interactions of substances harmful to the environment, has experienced an increase in the use of these techniques. The GENERA (Use of genomic and proteomic tools for the development of contaminant specific biomarkers for the environmental risk assessment of aquatic ecosystems) project investigated the use of genomic and proteomic tools to develop specific biomarkers for the environmental risk assessment of aquatic ecosystems. Knowledge of the processes occurring at molecular and cellular levels will help scientists understand the mechanisms of actions involved in toxicity. Researchers exposed several marine species from different levels of the food chain to a range of contaminants to determine the effect on genes and proteins. The aim was to develop contaminant-specific biomarkers that could respond to very low levels of contaminant concentrations, similar to those found in the environment. The organisms were tested for genomic and proteomic effects following exposure to priority contaminants. The organisms' responses were assessed for similarities at different organisational levels, with the goal of developing interspecies biomarkers. These will be used for conducting environmental risk assessment for the most important contaminants. GENERA will not only help further biomarker technology, it will also have a significant socioeconomic impact and help conserve the natural environment. The work will not only apply to food production and consumption of products from contaminated sites but also directly affect human health.

Keywords

Biomarkers, synthetic chemicals, proteomics, genomics, environmental risk assessment

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