Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 18, pp 18846–18855 | Cite as

Comparison of metabolomic responses of earthworms to sub-lethal imidacloprid exposure in contact and soil tests

  • Vivek D. Dani
  • Brian P. Lankadurai
  • Edward G. Nagato
  • André J. Simpson
  • Myrna J. SimpsonEmail author
Research Article


Eisenia fetida earthworms were exposed to sub-lethal levels of imidacloprid for 48 h via contact filter paper tests and soil tests. After the exposure, 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) metabolomics was used to measure earthworm sub-lethal responses by analyzing the changes in the polar metabolite profile. Maltose, glucose, malate, lactate/threonine, myo-inositol, glutamate, arginine, lysine, tyrosine, leucine, and phenylalanine relative concentrations were altered with imidacloprid exposure in soil. In addition to these metabolites (excluding leucine and phenylalanine), fumarate, ATP, inosine, betaine, scyllo-inositol, glutamine, valine, tryptophan, alanine, tyrosine, and isoleucine relative concentrations shifted with imidacloprid exposure during contact tests. Metabolite changes in E. fetida earthworms exposed to imidacloprid showed a non-linear concentration response and an upregulation in gluconeogenesis. Overall, imidacloprid exposure in soil induces a less pronounced response in metabolites glucose, maltose, fumarate, adenosine-5′-triphosphate (ATP), inosine, scyllo-inositol, lactate/threonine, and tyrosine in comparison to the response observed via contact tests. Thus, our study highlights that tests in soil can result in a different metabolic response in E. fetida and demonstrates the importance of different modes of exposure and the extent of metabolic perturbation in earthworms. Our study also emphasizes the underlying metabolic disruption of earthworms after acute sub-lethal exposure to imidacloprid. These observations should be further examined in different soil types to assess the sub-lethal toxicity of imidacloprid to soil-dwelling earthworms.


Eisenia fetida Neonicotinoids Energy disruption Contact exposure Soil exposure Gluconeogenesis 



We extend our gratitude to Dr. Ronald Soong for technical assistance and valuable discussions.

Funding information

We thank the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada Strategic Partnership Grant (STPGP 494273-16) for funding this study.

Supplementary material

11356_2019_5302_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.8 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 1.77 mb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Environmental NMR Centre and Department of Physical SciencesUniversity of Toronto ScarboroughTorontoCanada

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