Hazardous effects of road-side soils on the redox and cholinesterasic homeostasis of mound-building termite (Cornitermes cumulans)

Sci Total Environ. 2022 Apr 1:815:152841. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.152841. Epub 2022 Jan 4.


For our knowledge, the roadside soils end up being the deposit of various residues discarded by drivers or passengers, plus, that coming from the runoff of rainwater. Basically, we do not know the impacts that this pollution causes on animals which inhabit these environments. Thus, in this study, our objective was to evaluate how the presence of plastic microfibers (MPFs), organic compounds and heavy metals affect the redox and cholinesterase homeostasis of mound-building termite [Cornitermes cumulans (workers) adults]. As a result, we noticed that MPFs were present in all sampled areas, being higher in road area (RA). Regardless of the presence of these pollutants, animals sampled in the RA were those in which we observed greater production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and nitric oxide (NO) (via nitrite), whose higher activities of antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT), was not able to counterbalance the oxidative stress suggested by the evaluated biomarkers. Moreover, we observed increase in acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity in these same animals, which suggests a cholinesterasic effect. Such alterations were positively correlated with the contamination of soil samples by Cd, Pb, Zn, Fe and Cu, as well as with the presence of the 11,10-guaiane-type sesquiterpenoid compound, identified only in the RA. Thus, our unique study reveals that the contamination of roadside soils constitutes an additional environmental stressor to populations of C. cumulans, which reinforces the need for greater attention and further investigation to be given to the pollution of these environments.

Keywords: Antioxidants; Highways; Oxidative stress; Soil contamination; Termites.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Animals
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Homeostasis
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Isoptera*
  • Metals, Heavy* / analysis
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants* / analysis
  • Soil Pollutants* / toxicity


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Acetylcholinesterase