Metabolomics confirms that dissolved organic carbon mitigates copper toxicity

Nadine S. Taylor, Jennifer A. Kirwan, Norman D. Yan, Mark R. Viant, John M. Gunn, James C. Mcgeer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Reductions in atmospheric emissions from the metal smelters in Sudbury, Canada, produced major improvements in acid and metal contamination of local lakes and indirectly increased dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations. Metal toxicity, however, has remained a persistent problem for aquatic biota. Integrating high-throughput, nontargeted mass spectrometry metabolomics with conventional toxicological measures elucidated the mediating effects of dissolved organic matter (DOM) on the toxicity of Cu to Daphnia pulex-pulicaria, a hybrid isolated from these soft water lakes. Two generations of daphniids were exposed to Cu (0-20μg/L) at increasing levels of natural DOM (0-4mg DOC/L). Added DOM reduced Cu toxicity monotonically with median lethal concentration values increasing from 2.3μg/L Cu without DOM to 22.7μg/L Cu at 4mg DOC/L. Reproductive output similarly benefited, increasing with DOM, yet falling with increases in Cu. Second generation reproduction was more impaired than the first generation. Dissolved organic matter had a greater influence than Cu on the metabolic status of the daphniids. Putative identification of metabolite peaks indicated that DOM elevation increased the metabolic energy status of the first generation animals, but this benefit was reduced in the second generation, although evidence of increased oxidative stress was detected. These results indicate that Sudbury's terrestrial ecosystems should be managed to increase aquatic DOM supply to enable daphniid colonists to both survive and foster stable populations. Environ Toxicol Chem 2015;9999:1-10.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-644
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • Ecological recovery
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Mass-spectrometry
  • Metabolomics
  • PLS-DA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Environmental Chemistry


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