A glyphosate-based pesticide impinges on transcription

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2005 Feb 15;203(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2004.07.014.


Widely spread chemicals used for human benefits may exert adverse effects on health or the environment, the identification of which are a major challenge. The early development of the sea urchin constitutes an appropriate model for the identification of undesirable cellular and molecular targets of pollutants. The widespread glyphosate-based pesticide affected sea urchin development by impeding the hatching process at millimolar range concentration of glyphosate. Glyphosate, the active herbicide ingredient of Roundup, by itself delayed hatching as judged from the comparable effect of different commercial glyphosate-based pesticides and from the effect of pure glyphosate addition to a threshold concentration of Roundup. The surfactant polyoxyethylene amine (POEA), the major component of commercial Roundup, was found to be highly toxic to the embryos when tested alone and therefore could contribute to the inhibition of hatching. Hatching, a landmark of early development, is a transcription-dependent process. Correlatively, the herbicide inhibited the global transcription, which follows fertilization at the 16-cell stage. Transcription inhibition was dose-dependent in the millimolar glyphosate range concentration. A 1257-bp fragment of the hatching enzyme transcript from Sphaerechinus granularis was cloned and sequenced; its transcription was delayed by 2 h in the pesticide-treated embryos. Because transcription is a fundamental basic biological process, the pesticide may be of health concern by inhalation near herbicide spraying at a concentration 25 times the adverse transcription concentration in the sprayed microdroplets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / drug effects
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / enzymology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / drug effects
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glycine / toxicity*
  • Herbicides / toxicity*
  • Metalloendopeptidases / biosynthesis
  • Metalloendopeptidases / genetics
  • Metalloendopeptidases / metabolism
  • Models, Animal
  • RNA / biosynthesis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sea Urchins / drug effects*
  • Sea Urchins / embryology
  • Sea Urchins / enzymology
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects*


  • Herbicides
  • glyphosate
  • RNA
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • envelysin
  • Glycine