Date: 24 Mar 2005

Using Transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans in Soil Toxicity Testing

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Soil bioassays are important tools for evaluating toxicological effects within the terrestrial environment. The American Society for Testing and Materials E2172-01 Standard Guide outlines a method for conducting laboratory soil toxicity tests using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. This method is an efficient tool for extracting C. elegans from soil samples and can be carried out after a 24-h exposure period using relatively small amounts of soil. Drawbacks of this method include problems with (1) recovery of nematodes from soils containing a high percentage of organic matter, and (2) distinguishing indigenous nematode species from nematodes added for the laboratory test. Due in part to these issues, C. elegans has not been extensively accepted for use in soil testing. To address these concerns and improve upon the American Society for Testing and Materials method, this project focused on using transgenic strains of C. elegans carrying a GFP-expressing element. Lethality and behavior tests revealed that the transgenic nematodes respond similarly to the wild-type N2 strain, indicating that they can be used in the same manner in soil testing. The GFP marker is easily identifiable not only within soils containing a large amount of organic matter, but also in field-collected soils containing indigenous nematodes. These results support the use of transgenic GFP C. elegans in soil bioassays as a tool to further the reliability of laboratory toxicity tests.