Review articles

Significance of adverse outcome pathways in biomarker-based environmental risk assessment in aquatic organisms

Eun-Ji Won , Jae-Seong Lee , Jin Wuk Lee , Sheikh Raisuddin


Received April 22, 2015,Revised May 22, 2015, Accepted May 28, 2015, Available online June 24, 2015

Volume 35,2015,Pages 115-127

In environmental risk assessments (ERA), biomarkers have been widely used as an early warning signal of environmental contamination. However, biomarker responses have limitation due to its low relevance to adverse outcomes (e.g., fluctuations in community structure, decreases in population size, and other similar ecobiologically relevant indicators of community structure and function). To mitigate these limitations, the concept of adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) was developed. An AOP is an analytical, sequentially progressive pathway that links a molecular initiating event (MIE) to an adverse outcome. Recently, AOPs have been recognized as a potential informational tool by which the implications of molecular biomarkers in ERA can be better understood. To demonstrate the utility of AOPs in biomarker-based ERA, here we discuss a series of three different biological repercussions caused by exposure to benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), silver nanoparticles (AgNPs), and selenium (Se). Using mainly aquatic invertebrates and selected vertebrates as model species, we focus on the development of the AOP concept. Aquatic organisms are suitable bioindicator species whose entire lifespans can be observed over a short period; moreover, these species can be studied on the molecular and population levels. Also, interspecific differences between aquatic organisms are important to consider in an AOP framework, since these differences are an integral part of the natural environment. The development of an environmental pollutant-mediated AOP may enable a better understanding of the effects of environmental pollutants in different scenarios in the diverse community of an ecosystem.

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