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DNA damage in earthworms from highly contaminated soils : assessing resistance to arsenic toxicity by use of the Comet assay

By Mark Button, Gawen R.T. Jenkin, Karen J. Bowman, Chris F. Harrington, Tim S. Brewer, George D.D. Jones and Mike Watts


Earthworms native to the former mine site of Devon Great Consols (DGC), UK reside in soils highly contaminated with arsenic (As). These earthworms are considered to have developed a resistance to As toxicity. The mechanisms underlying this resistance however, remain unclear. In the present study, non-resistant, commercially sourced Lumbricus terrestris were exposed to a typical DGC soil in laboratory mesocosms. The earthworms bio-accumulated As from the soil and incurred DNA-damage levels significantly above those observed in the control mesocosm (assessed using the Comet assay). A dose response was observed between DNA damage (% tail DNA) and As concentration in soil (control, 98, 183, 236, 324 and 436 mg kg−1). As-resistant earthworms (Lumbricus rubellus, Dendrodrilus rubidus and L. terrestris) collected from contaminated soils at DGC (203 to 9025 mg kg−1 As) had also bio-accumulated high levels of As from their host soils, yet demonstrated low levels of DNA damage compared with earthworms from uncontaminated sites. The results demonstrate that the As-contaminated soils at DGC are genotoxic to non-native earthworms and much less so to earthworms native to DGC, thus providing further evidence of an acquired resistance to As toxicity in the native earthworms.\ud \u

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.mrgentox.2009.12.009
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