Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 16, pp 15378–15389 | Cite as

Toxicity interactions between manganese (Mn) and lead (Pb) or cadmium (Cd) in a model organism the nematode C. elegans

  • Cailing Lu
  • Kurt R. Svoboda
  • Kade A. Lenz
  • Claire Pattison
  • Hongbo Ma
Research Article


Manganese (Mn) is considered as an emerging metal contaminant in the environment. However, its potential interactions with companying toxic metals and the associated mixture effects are largely unknown. Here, we investigated the toxicity interactions between Mn and two commonly seen co-occurring toxic metals, Pb and Cd, in a model organism the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. The acute lethal toxicity of mixtures of Mn+Pb and Mn+Cd were first assessed using a toxic unit model. Multiple toxicity endpoints including reproduction, lifespan, stress response, and neurotoxicity were then examined to evaluate the mixture effects at sublethal concentrations. Stress response was assessed using a daf-16::GFP transgenic strain that expresses GFP under the control of DAF-16 promotor. Neurotoxicity was assessed using a dat-1::GFP transgenic strain that expresses GFP in dopaminergic neurons. The mixture of Mn+Pb induced a more-than-additive (synergistic) lethal toxicity in the worm whereas the mixture of Mn+Cd induced a less-than-additive (antagonistic) toxicity. Mixture effects on sublethal toxicity showed more complex patterns and were dependent on the toxicity endpoints as well as the modes of toxic action of the metals. The mixture of Mn+Pb induced additive effects on both reproduction and lifespan, whereas the mixture of Mn+Cd induced additive effects on lifespan but not reproduction. Both mixtures seemed to induce additive effects on stress response and neurotoxicity, although a quantitative assessment was not possible due to the single concentrations used in mixture tests. Our findings demonstrate the complexity of metal interactions and the associated mixture effects. Assessment of metal mixture toxicity should take into consideration the unique property of individual metals, their potential toxicity mechanisms, and the toxicity endpoints examined.


Manganese Cadmium Lead Toxicity interaction Metal mixture C. elegans 



This work was conducted when C. Lu held a visiting scholar position at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee through the support of the Education Department of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China. The work was supported by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee through a start-up fund awarded to H. Ma.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Joseph J. Zilber School of Public HealthUniversity of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA
  2. 2.School of Public HealthGuangxi Medical UniversityNanningChina

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