Unravelling the molecular mechanisms of nickel in woodlice

Nuno G.C. Ferreira, Rui G. Morgado, Luís Cunha, Marta Novo, Amadeu M.V.M. Soares, Andrew J. Morgan, Susana Loureiro, Peter Kille

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    During the last few years, there has been an alarming increase in the amount of nickel (Ni) being released into the environment, primarily due to its use in the production of stainless steel but also from other sources such as batteries manufacturing and consequent disposal. The established biotic ligand models provide precise estimates for Ni bioavailability, in contrast, studies describing the mechanisms underpinning toxicological effect of Ni are scarce. This study exploits RNA-seq to determine the transcriptomic responses of isopods using Porcellionides pruinosus as an example of a terrestrial metal-resistant woodlouse. Furthermore, the recently proposed model for Ni adverse outcome pathways (Ni-AOP) presents an unprecedented opportunity to fit isopod responses to Ni toxicity and define Porcellionides pruinosus as a metalomic model.

    Prior to this study, P. pruinosus represented an important environmental sentinel, though lacking genetic/omic data. The reference transcriptome generated here thus represents a major advance and a novel resource. A detailed annotation of the transcripts obtained is presented together with the homology to genes/gene products from Metazoan and Arthropoda phylum, Gene Ontology (GO) classification, clusters of orthologous groups (COG) and assignment to KEGG metabolic pathways.

    The differential gene expression comparison was determined in response to nickel (Ni) exposure and used to derive the enriched pathways and processes. It revealed a significant impact on ion trafficking and storage, oxidative stress, neurotoxicity, reproduction impairment, genetics and epigenetics. Many of the processes observed support the current Ni-AOP although the data highlights that the current model can be improved by including epigenetic endpoints, which represents key chronic risks under a scenario of Ni toxicity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)108507
    Number of pages10
    JournalEnvironmental Research
    Issue numberSeptember 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


    • Transcriptome
    • RNA-Seq analysis
    • Terrestrial isopods
    • Metal trafficking


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