Insights into the mechanisms of within-species variation in sensitivity to chemicals: A case study using daphnids exposed to CMIT/MIT biocide

Jiwan Kim, Marie Agnes Coutellec, Sangkyu Lee, Jinhee Choi

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2 Scopus citations


Living organisms adapt to their environment, and this adaptive response to environmental changes is influenced by both genomic and epigenomic components. As adaptation underpins tolerance to stressors, it is crucial to consider biological adaptation in evaluating the adverse outcomes of environmental chemicals, such as biocides. Daphnid studies have revealed differences in sensitivity to environmental chemicals between conspecific populations or clones, as well as between species. This study aimed to identify whether sensitivity to chemicals is subject to intraspecific variation, and whether this sensitivity depends on the genetic and epigenetic backgrounds of the daphnid population. We used an integrative approach to assess the comparative toxicity of a mixture of 5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazoline-3-one and 2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one (CMIT/MIT), a commonly used isothiazolinone biocide, by measuring mortality, reproduction, physiological traits, global DNA methylation, and proteomic expression at the species and strain levels. The results showed that the variation in sensitivity to CMIT/MIT between conspecific strains (Daphnia pulex; DPR vs. DPA strains) could exceed that observed between congeneric species (D. magna vs. D. pulex DPR strain). Under the control conditions, DPR (the strain most sensitive to CMIT/MIT) was characterized by a larger body size, a higher heart rate, and a higher level of global DNA methylation compared to its counterpart (DPA), and proteome profiles differed between the two strains. Particularly, the study identified strain-specific epigenetic and proteomic responses to LC20 of CMIT/MIT, demonstrating putative critical proteins and biological pathways associated with the observed differences in phenotype and sensitivity to CMIT/MIT. Downregulation of certain proteins (e.g., SAM synthase, GSTs, hemoglobin, and cuticle proteins) and DNA hypomethylation can be proposed as key events (KEs) of adverse outcome pathway (AOP) for isothiazolinone toxicity. Our findings indicate that both genetic variations and epigenetic modifications can lead to intraspecific variation in sensitivity to chemicals, and this variation should be considered in the ecological risk assessment framework for chemical substances. We suggest conducting further analysis on methylated gene regions and observing transgenerational effects to verify the role of crosstalk between genetic and epigenetic factors in phenotypic and protein expressions. Data availability: Proteomic data is available in supplementary materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114967
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2023


  • Daphnia
  • Epigenetics
  • Intraspecific variation
  • Proteomics


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