Environmental toxicology and chemistry

Microbial reporter gene assay as a diagnostic and early warning tool for the detection and characterization of toxic pollution in surface waters.

PMID 26033406


Surface water samples constantly receive a vast mixture of micropollutants mainly originating from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). High-throughput live cell arrays provide a promising method for the characterization of the effects of chemicals and the associated molecular mechanisms. In the present study, this test system was evaluated for the first time for the characterization of a set of typical surface water extracts receiving effluent from WWTPs. The extracts containing complex mixtures of micropollutants were analyzed for the expression of 90 stress responsive genes in the Escherichia coli reporter gene assay. The most affected pathways and the genes most sensitive to surface water samples suggested prominent stress-responsive pathways for wastewater-impacted surface water, such as oxidative stress, DNA damage, and drug resistance. Samples strongly affecting particular pathways were identified by statistical analysis of gene expression. Transcription data were correlated with contamination data from chemical screening and percentages of wastewater in the samples. Samples with particular effects and outstanding chemical composition were analyzed. For these samples, hypotheses on the alteration of the transcription of genes involved in drug resistance and DNA repair attributable to the presence of pharmaceuticals were drawn.