¹H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)-based metabolomics was used to characterize the response of Daphnia magna after sub-lethal exposure to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), a commonly found environmental pollutant in freshwater ecosystems. Principal component analysis (PCA) scores plots showed significant separation in the exposed samples relative to the controls. Partial least squares (PLS) regression analysis revealed a strong linear correlation between the overall metabolic response and PFOS exposure concentration. More detailed analysis showed that the toxic mode of action is metabolite-specific with some metabolites exhibiting a non-monotonic response with higher PFOS exposure concentrations. Our study indicates that PFOS exposure disrupts various energy metabolism pathways and also enhances protein degradation. Overall, we identified several metabolites that are sensitive to PFOS exposure and may be used as bioindicators of D. magna health. In addition, this study also highlights the important utility of environmental metabolomic methods when attempting to elucidate acute and sub-lethal pollutant stressors on keystone organisms such as D. magna.
Keywords: PFOS mode of action; aquatic ecosystem health; bioindicators; environmental metabolomics; environmental stressors; sub-lethal toxicity.