Omics Advances in Ecotoxicology

Environ Sci Technol. 2018 Apr 3;52(7):3842-3851. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b06494. Epub 2018 Mar 12.


Toxic substances in the environment generate adverse effects at all levels of biological organization from the molecular level to community and ecosystem. Given this complexity, it is not surprising that ecotoxicologists have struggled to address the full consequences of toxic substance release at ecosystem level, due to the limits of observational and experimental tools to reveal the changes in deep structure at different levels of organization. -Omics technologies, consisting of genomics and ecogenomics, have the power to reveal, in unprecedented detail, the cellular processes of an individual or biodiversity of a community in response to environmental change with high sample/observation throughput. This represents a historic opportunity to transform the way we study toxic substances in ecosystems, through direct linkage of ecological effects with the systems biology of organisms. Three recent examples of -omics advance in the assessment of toxic substances are explored here: (1) the use of functional genomics in the discovery of novel molecular mechanisms of toxicity of chemicals in the environment; (2) the development of laboratory pipelines of dose-dependent, reduced transcriptomics to support high-throughput chemical testing at the biological pathway level; and (3) the use of eDNA metabarcoding approaches for assessing chemical effects on biological communities in mesocosm experiments and through direct observation in field monitoring. -Omics advances in ecotoxicological studies not only generate new knowledge regarding mechanisms of toxicity and environmental effect, improving the relevance and immediacy of laboratory toxicological assessment, but can provide a wholly new paradigm for ecotoxicology by linking ecological models to mechanism-based, systems biology approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ecology
  • Ecosystem*
  • Ecotoxicology*
  • Genomics
  • Risk Assessment