Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 3985–3995 | Cite as

An in-vitro approach for water quality determination: activation of NF-κB as marker for cancer-related stress responses induced by anthropogenic pollutants of drinking water

  • Luis F. SpittaEmail author
  • Sebastian Diegeler
  • Christa Baumstark-Khan
  • Christine E. Hellweg
Effect-related evaluation of anthropogenic trace substances, -concepts for genotoxicity, neurotoxicity and, endocrine effects


Epidemiological studies show that there is a link between urban water pollution and increase in human morbidity and mortality. With the increase in number of new substances arising from the chemical, pharmaceutical, and agricultural industries, there is an urgent need to develop biological test systems for fast evaluation of potential risks to humans and the environmental ecosystems. Here, a combined cellular reporter assay based on the cellular survival and the stress-induced activation of the survival-promoting factor nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) and its use for the detection of cytotoxicity and cancer-related stress responses is presented. A total of 14 chemicals that may be found in trace-amounts in ground water levels are applied and tested with the presented assay. The project is embedded within the joint research project TOX-BOX which aims to develop a harmonized testing strategy for risk management of anthropogenic trace substances in potable water. The assay identified carbendazim as a NF-κB-activating agent in mammalian cells.


Environmental toxicology Cytotoxicity Genotoxicity TOX-Box Fluorescence based reporter assay NF-kappaB 



The authors thank the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (Funding number 02WRS12821) for financially supporting the project TOX-BOX. TOX-BOX is a constitutive part of the BMBF action plan “Sustainable water management (NaWaM)” and is integrated in the BMBF frame program “Research for sustainable development FONA”. It is part of the funding scheme “Risk Management of emerging compounds and pathogens in the water cycle” (RISKWA) introduced to the public by Huckele and Track (2013).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luis F. Spitta
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sebastian Diegeler
    • 1
  • Christa Baumstark-Khan
    • 1
  • Christine E. Hellweg
    • 1
  1. 1.German Aerospace Center (DLR)Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Radiation Biology Unit, Cellular BiodiagnosticsCologneGermany

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