, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 268–279 | Cite as

Species-specific responsiveness of four enzymes to endosulfan and predation risk questions their usefulness as general biomarkers

  • Hendrik Trekels
  • Frank Van de Meutter
  • Lieven Bervoets
  • Robby Stoks


General biochemical biomarkers are widely used in current ecotoxicology and may function as early warning signals. We have, however, poor knowledge on how ecologically similar species differ in their biomarker responsiveness and how predation risk may affect these biomarkers, potentially in an interactive way with pesticides. We evaluated this by exposing four corixid water bug species to combinations of endosulfan and predation risk and quantifying the activity of four general enzymatic biomarkers: acetylcholinesterase (AChE), phenoloxidase (PO), catalase (CAT) and superoxidedismutase (SOD). AChE activity was inhibited at an endosulfan concentration of 2 μg l−1 and this did not differ significantly among species. Predation risk inhibited AChE activity with the same magnitude as endosulfan in one species, S. striata. Reduction in the investment of immune function following pesticide exposure, as measured by the activity of PO, was only observed in C. coleoptrata at 8 μg l−1 while we observed an increase of PO levels in S. striata. Overall, PO was suppressed under predation risk at 8 μg l−1 endosulfan. For SOD we observed a pesticide-induced increase across all species under predation risk, while for CAT the pesticide-induced increase was only present without predation risk. These results indicate that even within this group of ecologically similar and closely related species opposing biomarker responses may exist, as observed for PO. Effects of predation risk on all four enzymes, at a similar magnitude as the pesticide effects, further question their usefulness as general biomarkers.


Endosulfan Enzymatic biomarkers Predation risk Synergism Water boatmen (Corixidae) 



During the study, HT was a PhD fellow of the Institute for the promotion of Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT Flanders) and FVDM a postdoctoral fellow of Research Foundation (FWO Flanders). This research was financially supported by research projects of the KULeuven Research Fund and FWO Flanders (project no. G018509N) to FVDM, LB and RS.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hendrik Trekels
    • 1
  • Frank Van de Meutter
    • 1
  • Lieven Bervoets
    • 2
  • Robby Stoks
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Ecophysiology, Biochemistry and ToxicologyUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

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