Stem cells of aquatic invertebrates as an advanced tool for assessing ecotoxicological impacts



A. Rosner, J. Armengaud, L. Ballarin, S. Barnay-Verdier, F. Cima, A.V. Coelho, I. Domart-Coulon, D. Drobne, A.-M. Genevière, A. Jemec Kokalj, E. Kotlarska, D.M. Lyons, T. Mass, G. Paz, K. Pazdro, L. Perić, A. Ramšak, S. Rakers, B. Rinkevich, A. Spagnuolo, M. Sugni, and S. Cambier


Science of the Total Environment, vol. 771, art. no. 144565, 2021


Environmental stressors are assessed through methods that quantify their impacts on a wide range of metrics including species density, growth rates, reproduction, behaviour and physiology, as on host-pathogen interactions and immunocompetence. Environmental stress may induce additional sublethal effects, like mutations and epigenetic signatures affecting offspring via germline mediated transgenerational inheritance, shaping phenotypic plasticity, increasing disease susceptibility, tissue pathologies, changes in social behaviour and biological invasions. The growing diversity of pollutants released into aquatic environments requires the development of a reliable, standardised and 3R (replacement, reduction and refinement of animals in research) compliant in vitro toolbox. The tools have to be in line with REACH regulation 1907/2006/EC, aiming to improve strategies for potential ecotoxicological risks assessment and monitoring of chemicals threatening human health and aquatic environments. Aquatic invertebrates' adult stem cells (ASCs) are numerous and can be pluripotent, as illustrated by high regeneration ability documented in many of these taxa. This is of further importance as in many aquatic invertebrate taxa, ASCs are able to differentiate into germ cells. Here we propose that ASCs from key aquatic invertebrates may be harnessed for applicable and standardised new tests in ecotoxicology. As part of this approach, a battery of modern techniques and endpoints are proposed to be tested for their ability to correctly identify environmental stresses posed by emerging contaminants in aquatic environments. Consequently, we briefly describe the current status of the available toxicity testing and biota-based monitoring strategies in aquatic environmental ecotoxicology and highlight some of the associated open issues such as replicability, consistency and reliability in the outcomes, for understanding and assessing the impacts of various chemicals on organisms and on the entire aquatic environment. Following this, we describe the benefits of aquatic invertebrate ASC-based tools for better addressing ecotoxicological questions, along with the current obstacles and possible overhaul approaches.



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