Integrating bioassays, chemical analysis and in silico techniques to identify genotoxicants in surface water

Sci Total Environ. 2019 Feb 10;650(Pt 2):3084-3092. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.09.288. Epub 2018 Sep 27.


Identification of hazardous compounds, as the first step of water protection and regulation, is still challenged by the difficulty to establish a linkage between toxic effects and suspected contaminants. Genotoxic compounds are one type of highly relevant toxicants in surface water, which may attack the DNA and lead to cancer in individual organism, or even damaged germ cells to be passed on to future generations. Thus, the establishment of a linkage between genotoxic effects and genotoxicant is important for environmental toxicologists and chemists. For this purpose, in the present study in silico methods were integrated with bioassays, chemical analysis and literature information to identify genotoxicants in surface water. Large volume water samples from 22 sampling sites of the Danube were collected and subjected to biological and chemical analysis. Samples from the most toxic sites (JDS32, JDS44 and JDS63) induced significant genotoxic effects in the micronucleus assay, and two of them caused mutagenicity in the Ames fluctuation assay. Chemical analysis showed that 68 chemicals were detected in these most toxic samples. Literature findings and in silico techniques using the OECD QSAR Toolbox and the ChemProp software package revealed genotoxic potentials for 29 compounds out of 68 targeted chemicals. To confirm the integrative technical data, the micronucleus assay and the Ames fluctuation assay were applied with artificial mixtures of those compounds and the raw water sample extracts. The results showed that 18 chemicals explained 48.5% of the genotoxicity in the micronucleus assay. This study highlights the capability of in silico techniques in linking adverse biological effect to suspicious hazardous compounds for the identification of toxicity drivers, and demonstrates the genotoxic potential of pollutants in the Danube.

Keywords: Ames fluctuation assay; Genotoxicants identification; Genotoxicity; In silico techniques; Micronucleus assay.