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Toxicity of arsenite to earthworms and subsequent effects on soil properties

Wang, Yali, Wu, Yizhao, Cavanagh, Jo, Yiming, Ayizekeranmu, Wang, Xiuhong, Gao, Wen, Matthew, Cory, Qiu, Jiangping, Li, Yinsheng
Soil biology & biochemistry 2018 v.117 pp. 36-47
DNA, DNA damage, Eisenia fetida, agricultural soils, ammonium nitrogen, antioxidants, arsenic, bioaccumulation factor, bioavailability, biomarkers, catalase, comet assay, dose response, earthworms, environmental monitoring, heme oxygenase (biliverdin-producing), humans, iron oxides, lipids, malondialdehyde, nitrate nitrogen, oxidative stress, plants (botany), protein synthesis, sodium arsenite, soil organic matter, soil properties, soil treatment, spermatozoa, superoxide dismutase, toxicity
Arsenic (As) is widely distributed in soil and is toxic to plants, animals and humans. In this study, earthworms (Eisenia fetida) were exposed to five concentrations of sodium arsenite (5, 10, 20, 40, and 80 mg As kg−1) in farm soils for 28 d. With increasing soil As(III) concentrations, As bioaccumulation in earthworms increased (maximum bioaccumulation factor 3.77), and levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and malondialdehyde (MDA) were elevated. The expression of nuclear factor erythroid 2- related factor 2 (Nrf2) and heme oxygenase -1 (HO-1) were upregulated by As in a dose-dependent pattern, and reached 5.93 and 2.94 times the control values for Nrf2 and HO-1 respectively, at 28 d in the 80 mg As kg−1 soil treatment. Similarly, DNA damage, as measured in earthworm sperm using the comet assay, increased with increasing As(III) concentrations, with ‘Olive tail moment’ values in the comet assay ranging from c. 0.5 in Control to c. 3.5 at 80 mg As kg−1 soil. In contrast, activity of the antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT), decreased. These results indicate that As(III) caused oxidative stress that resulted in damage to lipids and DNA. Nrf2 and HO-1 protein expression was demonstrated in earthworms for the first time to our knowledge, and found to be a sensitive biomarker of arsenic contamination. The presence of earthworms was also found to change the distribution of As in soil, in particular, reducing the proportion in the residual fraction and increasing the proportion in As bound to Fe-oxides. This may result in increased bioavailability of bound arsenic. Soil organic matter, NH4+-N, NO3−-N and available K were indirectly changed by the As(III) through its toxicity to earthworms. This study helps to inform future assessments and biomonitoring of soil arsenic contamination.