Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 36, pp 36184–36193 | Cite as

Developing metabolomics-based bioassessment: crayfish metabolome sensitivity to food and dissolved oxygen stress

  • Natalie M. Izral
  • Robert B. BruaEmail author
  • Joseph M. Culp
  • Adam G. Yates
Research Article


There is a need to develop bioassessment tools that can diagnose the effects of individual stressors that can have multiple ecological effects. Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)-based metabolomics, our experiments aimed to identify the sensitivity of metabolites to changes in food availability and dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations, and compare these results to identify metabolites that may differentiate between the effects of these two stressors. Forty-eight, laboratory-raised, red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) were randomly assigned and exposed to one of three food availability or DO treatment levels (high, normal, low). Starved crayfish had lower amounts of amino acids than fed crayfish, suggesting catabolic effects of starvation on tail muscle tissue for energy requirements. In contrast, crayfish exposed to hypoxic conditions experienced changes in abundance of metabolites primarily associated with energy metabolism. Tail muscle was the only tissue sensitive to food and DO stress, suggesting the need to select tissues for monitoring appropriately. Our evaluation of environmental metabolomics as a tool for bioassessment indicates that several identified metabolites in crayfish tail muscle may be able to diagnose food and oxygen stress. Further study is required to determine if these metabolic effects are linked with changes of individual fitness and higher levels of biological organization, such as population size.


Metabolomics Bioassessment Food availability Dissolved oxygen Crayfish Eutrophication 



We thank Daryl Halliwell for assistance with laboratory logistics and sample processing. We thank Karen Machin from the Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan and Keith Brown of the University of Saskatchewan Structural Science Centre for NMR spectroscopy assistance.


Research funding was provided by Environment Canada’s Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative, the Canadian Water Network Tobacco Creek Model Watershed Consortia Grant, and separate NSERC Discover Grants to J.M.C. and A.G.Y.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


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Copyright information

© Crown 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyWestern University and Canadian Rivers InstituteLondonCanada
  2. 2.Watershed Hydrology and Ecology Research DivisionEnvironment and Climate Change CanadaSaskatoonCanada
  3. 3.Environment and Climate Change Canada and Canadian Rivers Institute, Department of BiologyUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada

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