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Earthworms produce phytochelatins in response to arsenic.

By Manuel Liebeke, Isabel Garcia-Perez, Craig J Anderson, Alan J Lawlor, Mark H Bennett, Ceri A Morris, Peter Kille, Claus Svendsen, David J Spurgeon and Jacob G Bundy

Abstract

Phytochelatins are small cysteine-rich non-ribosomal peptides that chelate soft metal and metalloid ions, such as cadmium and arsenic. They are widely produced by plants and microbes; phytochelatin synthase genes are also present in animal species from several different phyla, but there is still little known about whether these genes are functional in animals, and if so, whether they are metal-responsive. We analysed phytochelatin production by direct chemical analysis in Lumbricus rubellus earthworms exposed to arsenic for a 28 day period, and found that arsenic clearly induced phytochelatin production in a dose-dependent manner. It was necessary to measure the phytochelatin metabolite concentrations directly, as there was no upregulation of phytochelatin synthase gene expression after 28 days: phytochelatin synthesis appears not to be transcriptionally regulated in animals. A further untargetted metabolomic analysis also found changes in metabolites associated with the transsulfuration pathway, which channels sulfur flux from methionine for phytochelatin synthesis. There was no evidence of biological transformation of arsenic (e.g. into methylated species) as a result of laboratory arsenic exposure. Finally, we compared wild populations of earthworms sampled from the field, and found that both arsenic-contaminated and cadmium-contaminated mine site worms had elevated phytochelatin concentrations

Topics: Medicine, R, Science, Q
Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)
DOI identifier: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081271
OAI identifier: oai:doaj.org/article:ea8d08754c3a4dc386f298ebf13d684f
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