Integrating Omic Technologies into Aquatic Ecological Risk Assessment and Environmental Monitoring: Hurdles, Achievements, and Future Outlook

By Van Aggelen, Graham; Ankley, Gerald T. et al. | Environmental Health Perspectives, January 2010 | Go to article overview

Integrating Omic Technologies into Aquatic Ecological Risk Assessment and Environmental Monitoring: Hurdles, Achievements, and Future Outlook


Van Aggelen, Graham, Ankley, Gerald T., Baldwin, William S., Bearden, Daniel W., Benson, William H., Chipman, J. Kevin, Collette, Tim W., Craft, John A., Denslow, Nancy D., Embry, Michael R., Falciani, Francesco, George, Stephen G., Helbing, Caren C., Hoekstra, Paul F., Iguchi, Taisen, Kagami, Yoshi, Katsiadaki, Ioanna, Kille, Peter, Liu, Li, Lord, Peter G., McIntyre, Terry, O'Neill, Anne, Osachoff, Heather, Perkins, Ed J., Santos, Eduarda M., Skirrow, Rachel C., Snape, Jason R., Tyler, Charles R., Versteeg, Don, Viant, Mark R., Volz, David C., Williams, Tim D., Yu, Lorraine, Environmental Health Perspectives


BACKGROUND: In this commentary we present the findings from an international consortium on fish toxicogenomics sponsored by the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council (Fish Toxicogenomics--Moving into Regulation and Monitoring, held 21-23 April 2008 at the Pacific Environmental Science Centre, Vancouver, BC, Canada).

OBJECTIVES: The consortium from government agencies, academia, and industry addressed three topics: progress in ecotoxicogenomics, regulatory perspectives on roadblocks for practical implementation of toxicogenomics into risk assessment, and dealing with variability in data sets.

DISCUSSION: Participants noted that examples of successful application of omic technologies have been identified, but critical studies are needed to relate molecular changes to ecological adverse outcome. Participants made recommendations for the management of technical and biological variation. They also stressed the need for enhanced interdisciplinary training and communication as well as considerable investment into the generation and curation of appropriate reference omic data.

CONCLUSIONS: The participants concluded that, although there are hurdles to pass on the road to regulatory acceptance, omics technologies are already useful for elucidating modes of action of toxicants and can contribute to the risk assessment process as part of a weight-of-evidence approach.

KEY WORDS: environment, environmental monitoring, fish, metabolomics, microarray, regulatory toxicology, transcriptomics. Environ Health Perspect 118:1-5 (2010). doi:10.1289/ehp.0900985 available via http://dx.doi.org/ [Online 17 August 2009]

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The goal of this consortium (Fish Toxicogenomics--Moving into Regulation and Monitoring, held 21-23 April 2008 at the Pacific Environmental Science Centre, Vancouver, BC, Canada) was to assess current developments leading to the incorporation of omic technologies into environmental risk assessment and environmental monitoring, particularly in relation to aquatic ecotoxicogenomics. Participants recognized that omic tools and associated end points are already significantly improving our understanding of how individual chemicals and mixtures affect organisms and could ultimately influence risk assessment and environmental management. Although a significant amount of basic research and validation is needed before omic end points are incorporated as complementary data for routine assessments of environmental risk, participants generally agreed that there are no roadblocks for omics technology per se, but there are hurdles along the road of discovery, acceptance, and implementation of omic end points. Given the context of the workshop, it is important to note that "the successful incorporation of toxicogenomics into regulatory frameworks may someday be regarded as the most important intellectual and practical contribution from this generation of ecotoxicologists" (Ankley et al. 2006).

Benefits and Successful Applications of Omics in Ecotoxicology and Ecological Risk Assessments

Historical challenges and recent developments for regulatory implementation. Previous publications and workshops (e.g., Ankley et al. 2006; Boverhof and Zacharewski 2006) have discussed the potential application of omic technologies to risk assessment. The use of omic technology in toxicology (toxicogenomics) was initiated after the development of the first high-density techniques (micro-arrays). However, excitement surrounding this new technology generated "hype" that yielded unrealistic expectations of the timeline for incorporation into risk assessment. There is now a more realistic understanding of the potential contribution of omics to toxicology [National Research Council (NRC) 2007]. A multilevel systems biology approach to safety assessment--combining molecular- (including mRNA, protein, and metabolites), cellular-, tissue-, individual-, and population-level data--represents a powerful new multidisciplinary approach that identifies biomarkers with much-improved predictive capacity. …

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