Using Mutations for Pesticide Resistance to Identify the Cause of Toxicity in Environmental Samples

Donald P. Weston, Helen C. Poynton, Kaley M. Major, Gary A. Wellborn, Michael J. Lydy, Christoph Moschet, Richard E Connon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Traditional Toxicity Identification Evaluations (TIE) are applied to identify causal agents in complex environmental samples showing toxicity and rely upon physical or chemical manipulation of samples. However, mutations conferring toxicant resistance provide the opportunity for a novel biologically based TIE. Populations within the Hyalella azteca complex from pesticide-affected waterways were 2 and 3 orders of magnitude more resistant to the pyrethroid cyfluthrin and the organophosphate chlorpyrifos, respectively, than laboratory-cultured H. azteca widely used for toxicity testing. Three resistant populations, as well as laboratory-cultured, nonresistant H. azteca, were exposed to urban and agricultural runoff. Every sample causing death or paralysis in the nonresistant individuals had no effect on pyrethroid-resistant individuals, providing strong evidence that a pyrethroid was the responsible toxicant. The lack of toxicity to chlorpyrifos-sensitive, but pyrethroid-resistant, individuals suggested chlorpyrifos was not a likely toxicant, a hypothesis supported by chemical analysis. Since these mutations that confer resistance to pesticides are highly specific, toxicity to wild-type, but not resistant animals, provides powerful evidence of causality. It may be possible to identify strains resistant to even a wider variety of toxicants, further extending the potential use of this biologically based TIE technique beyond the pyrethroid and organophosphate-resistant strains currently available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)859-867
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 16 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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