Interactive toxicity of copper and cadmium in regenerating and adult planarians

Sanah Majid, Frank Van Belleghem, Jan-Pieter Ploem, Annelies Wouters, Ronny Blust, Karen Smeets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In a polluted environment, metals are present as complex mixtures. As a result, organisms are exposed to different metals at the same time, which affects both metal-specific as well as overall toxicity. Detailed information about the molecular mechanisms underlying the adverse effects of combined exposures remains limited in terms of different life stages. In this study, the freshwater planarian Schmidtea mediterranea was used to investigate developmental and physiological responses associated with a combined exposure to Cu and Cd. In addition, the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the provoked adverse effects were studied in different exposure scenarios to 20 μM CuCl2 and 10 μM CdCl2. Mixed exposure resulted in a decline in survival, diverse non-lethal morphological changes, neuroregenerative impairments, altered behaviour and a limited repair capacity. Underlying to these effects, the cellular redox state was altered in all exposure conditions. In adult animals, this led to DNA damage and corresponding transcriptional changes in cell cycle and DNA repair genes. In regenerating animals, hydrogen and glutathione contents were altered. Overall, our results demonstrate that (1) developing organisms are more susceptible to metal exposures, and (2) the toxicity of an individual metal increases significantly in a mixed exposure scenario. These aspects have to be included in current risk assessment strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number133819
Issue number133819
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


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