, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 1381–1390 | Cite as

Differential genotoxicity of Roundup® formulation and its constituents in blood cells of fish (Anguilla anguilla): considerations on chemical interactions and DNA damaging mechanisms

  • S. Guilherme
  • M. A. Santos
  • C. Barroso
  • I. Gaivão
  • M. Pacheco


It has been widely recognized that pesticides represent a potential threat in aquatic ecosystems. However, the knowledge on the genotoxicity of pesticides to fish is still limited. Moreover, genotoxic studies have been almost exclusively focused on the active ingredients, whereas the effect of adjuvants is frequently ignored. Hence, the present study addressed the herbicide Roundup®, evaluating the relative contribution of the active ingredient (glyphosate) and the surfactant (polyethoxylated amine; POEA) to the genotoxicity of the commercial formulation on Anguilla anguilla. Fish were exposed to equivalent concentrations of Roundup® (58, 116 μg L−1), glyphosate (17.9, 35.7 μg L−1) and POEA (9.3, 18.6 μg L−1), during 1 and 3 days. The comet assay was applied to blood cells, either as the standard procedure, or with an extra step involving DNA lesion-specific repair enzymes in an attempt to clarify DNA damaging mechanisms. The results confirmed the genotoxicity of Roundup®, also demonstrating the genotoxic potential of glyphosate and POEA individually. Though both components contributed to the overall genotoxicity of the pesticide formulation, the sum of their individual effects was never observed, pointing out an antagonistic interaction. Although POEA is far from being considered biologically inert, it did not increase the risk associated to glyphosate when the two were combined. The analysis of oxidatively induced breaks suggested that oxidation of DNA bases was not a dominant mechanism of damage. The present findings highlighted the risk posed to fish populations by the assessed chemicals, jointly or individually, emphasizing the need to define regulatory thresholds for all the formulation components and recommending, in particular, the revision of the hazard classification of POEA.


Roundup® Glyphosate POEA Genotoxicity DNA lesion-specific repair enzymes Fish 



This work was supported by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT; Government of Portugal) through the Research project PTDC/AAC-AMB/114123/2009 [co-financed by FCT/MCTES in its national budget component (PIDDAC) and by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through COMPETE - Thematic Factors of Competitiveness Operational Programme (POFC)] and the Ph.D. fellowship SFRH/BD/42103/2007, as well as by Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Guilherme
    • 1
  • M. A. Santos
    • 1
  • C. Barroso
    • 1
  • I. Gaivão
    • 2
  • M. Pacheco
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology and CESAMUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.CECAV and Department of Genetics and BiotechnologyTrás-os-Montes and Alto Douro UniversityVila RealPortugal

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