Biotoxicity assessment of pyrene in soil using a battery of biological assays

Muhammad Imran Khan, Sardar Alam Cheema, Xianjin Tang, Chaofeng Shen, Shahbaz Talib Sahi, Abdul Jabbar, Joonhong Park, Yingxu Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


A test battery, composed of a range of biological assays, was applied to evaluate the ecological health of soil aged for 69 days and spiked with a range of pyrene levels (1.04, 8.99, 41.5, 72.6, 136, and 399 μg g-1 dry soil; Soxhlet-extracted concentrations after 69 days of aging). Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa), earthworm (Eisenia fetida), and bacteria (Vibrio fischeri) were used as test organisms to represent different trophic levels. Among the acute ecotoxicity bioassays used, the V. fischeri luminescence inhibition assay was the most sensitive indicator of pyrene toxicity. We observed >8 % light inhibition at the lowest concentration (1.04 μg g-1) pyrene, and this inhibition increased to 60 % at 72.6 μg g-1. The sensitivity ranking for toxicity of the pyrene-contaminated soil in the present study was in the following decreasing order: root elongation of Chinese cabbage < earthworm mortality (14 days) < earthworm mortality (28 days) < luminescence inhibition (15 min) < luminescence inhibition (5 min). In addition, genotoxic effects of pyrene were also evaluated by using comet assay in E. fetida. The strong relationship between DNA damage and soil pyrene levels showed that comet assay is suitable for testing the genotoxicity of pyrene- polluted soil. In addition, tail moment was well correlated with soil pyrene levels (r2 = 0.99). Thus, tail moment may be the most informative DNA-damage parameter representing the results of comet assay. Based on these results, the earthworm DNA damage assay and Microtox test are rapid and sensitive bioassays and can be used to assess the risk of soil with low to high levels of hydrocarbon pollution. Furthermore, an analysis of the toxic effects at several trophic levels is essential for a more comprehensive understanding of the damage caused by highly contaminated soil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-512
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Nov

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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