Toxicological effects of microcystin-LR on earthworm (Eisenia fetida) in soil

Hong-Fei WEN, Yan-Wen LI, Lei XIANG, Hai-Ming ZHAO, Lei CHEN, Quan-Ying CAI, Hui LI, Ce-Hui MO, Dong-Mei ZHOU, Ming Hung WONG

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Microcystin-LR (MC-LR) is a cyclic heptapeptide toxin produced by cyanobacteria in eutrophic water. It can be transferred into soil–crop systems via irrigation and cyanobacterial paste fertilization. No studies have examined the potential toxicity of MC-LR to soil animals. Therefore, in the present study, the toxicological effects of MC-LR on earthworm (Eisenia fetida), including survival, growth, reproduction, oxidative stress, and cell viability, were investigated. The LC₅₀ of MC-LR was 0.149 μg cm⁻² at 72 h based on a filter paper test and 0.460 mg kg⁻¹ at 14 days based on an acute soil test. MC-LR seriously affected the reproduction of earthworms. Based on hatchability, the EC₅₀ of MC-LR was 0.268 mg kg⁻¹, similar to environmentally relevant concentrations of microcystins. The changes in activities of superoxide dismutase, guaiacol peroxidase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase, together with the levels of glutathione and malondialdehyde, indicated that oxidative damage and lipid peroxidation played significant roles in MC-LR toxicity. In addition, the toxicity of MC-LR in earthworms increased despite degradation of MC-LR in soil over time, possibly due to the formation of toxic metabolites of MC-LR or the bioaccumulation of MC-LR in earthworms. A reduction in the neutral red retention time along with an increase in coelomocyte apoptosis with increasing MC-LR concentrations indicated a severe damage to viability. These results suggest that environmentally relevant MC-LR concentrations in agricultural soil may cause reproductive, biochemical, and cellular toxicity to Eisenia fetida. This information can be used in ecological risk assessments on MC-LR in soil. Copyright © 2017 Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)849-860
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Issue number8
Early online dateJul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


Wen, H.-F., Li, Y.-W., Xiang, L., Zhao, H.-M., Chen, L., Cai, Q.-Y., et al. (2017). Toxicological effects of microcystin-LR on earthworm (Eisenia fetida) in soil. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 53(8), 849-860.


  • MC-LR
  • Earthworm
  • Soil
  • Toxicological effect
  • Reproduction toxicity
  • Coelomocyte apoptosis


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