Individual and cellular responses of earthworms (Eisenia fetida) to endosulfan at environmentally related concentrations.


State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China. Electronic address: [Email]


The presence of endosulfan at high levels in soils poses a potential risk for terrestrial ecosystems and human health via the food chain. Therefore, the effects of endosulfan at environmentally related doses on the terrestrial biota are of great concern. The present study measured the mortality, growth inhibition and ultrastructure of the stomach and skin of earthworms exposed to endosulfan at environmentally related concentrations to identify the individual and cellular effects of endosulfan on terrestrial biota. The results demonstrated that the growth inhibition of earthworms was significantly and positively correlated with the endosulfan dose and little mortality was found. The nuclei, microvilli and cuticles in the stomachs and skin cells of earthworms exhibited marked abnormalities. Endosulfan injured the ultrastructure of the nucleus even at low doses (0.5 mg·kg-1). Endosulfan seriously affected stomach microvilli and the cuticle structure of the skin, and this damage increased with increased exposure time and dose. Notably, cuticle damage was worse than the microvilli damage. These experiments demonstrated that the morphological changes in the tissue ultrastructure of the earthworm were more sensitive than growth inhibition, and these changes may be used as an early warning indicator of endosulfan pollution. The degree of damage to microvilli and cuticle is a promising bio-indicator to evaluate pesticide risk. The results of this study provide evidence of endosulfan toxicity and the importance of risk assessment on the terrestrial ecosystem.



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