, Volume 27, Issue 7, pp 871–889 | Cite as

Comparative analysis of transcriptomic responses to sub-lethal levels of six environmentally relevant pesticides in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

  • Fátima N. Gil
  • Alina C. Gonçalves
  • Jörg D. Becker
  • Cristina A. Viegas


Accidental spills and misuse of pesticides may lead to current and/or legacy environmental contamination and may pose concerns regarding possible risks towards non-target microbes and higher eukaryotes in ecosystems. The present study was aimed at comparing transcriptomic responses to effects of sub-lethal levels of six environmentally relevant pesticide active substances in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae eukaryotic model. The insecticide carbofuran, the fungicide pyrimethanil and the herbicides alachlor, S-metolachlor, diuron and methyl(4-chloro-2-methylphenoxy)acetate were studied. Some are currently used agricultural pesticides, while others are under restricted utilization or banned in Europe and/or North America albeit being used in other geographical locations. In the present work transcriptional profiles representing genome-wide responses in a standardized yeast population upon 2 h of exposure to concentrations of each compound exerting equivalent toxic effects, i.e., inhibition of growth by 20% relative to the untreated control cells, were examined. Hierarchical clustering and Venn analyses of the datasets of differentially expressed genes pointed out transcriptional patterns distinguishable between the six active substances. Functional enrichment analyses allowed predicting mechanisms of pesticide toxicity and response to pesticide stress in the yeast model. In general, variations in transcript numbers of selected genes assessed by Real-Time quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction confirmed microarray data and correlated well with growth inhibitory effects. A possible biological relevance of mechanistic predictions arising from these comparative transcriptomic analyses is discussed in the context of better understanding potential modes of action and adverse side-effects of pesticides.


Pesticide Sub-lethal Toxicogenomics Toxicity mechanisms Molecular response Saccharomyces cerevisiae 



We acknowledge financial support by grant UID/BIO/04565/2013 from Portuguese FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia) and grant LISBOA-01-0145-FEDER-007317 from POR Lisboa 2020 (Programa Operacional Regional de Lisboa 2020) awarded to iBB-Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences, and by funds from FEDER (European Funds for Economic and Regional Development), COMPETE (Competitiveness Factors Operational Programme) and Portuguese National Funds through the FCT funded research project PTDC/AMB/64230/2006 (ended in 2011) and fellowship SFRH/BD/60933/2009 (for F.N.G., ended in 2014).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary Material
10646_2018_1929_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (72 kb)
Supplementary Material


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.iBB-Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences, Instituto Superior Técnico (IST)Universidade de Lisboa (UL), Av Rovisco PaisLisboaPortugal
  2. 2.Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Rua da Quinta Grande N°6OeirasPortugal
  3. 3.Department of Bioengineering, IST, UL, Av Rovisco PaisLisboaPortugal

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