Roundup causes embryonic development failure, activates tumorigenesis pathways and alters gut microbiota functionality in non-target species

Antonio Suppa, Jouni Kvist, Xiaojing Li, Vignesh Dhandapani, Hanan Almulla, Antoine Tian, Stephen Kissane, Jiarui Zhou, Alessio Perotti, Hayley Mangelson, Kyle Langford, Valeria Rossi, James B Brown, Luisa Orsini

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Background. Research around the weedkiller Roundup is among the most contentious of the 21st century. Scientists have provided inconclusive evidence that the weedkiller causes cancer and other life-threatening diseases, while industry-paid research reports that the weedkiller has no adverse effect on humans or animals. Much of the controversial evidence on Roundup is rooted in the approach used to determine safe use of chemicals, defined by outdated toxicity tests. We apply a system biology approach to the biomedical and ecological model species Daphnia to quantify the impact of Glyphosate and of its commercial formula, Roundup, on fitness, genome-wide transcription and gut microbiota, taking full advantage of clonal reproduction in Daphnia. We then apply machine learning-based statistical analysis to identify and prioritize correlations between genome-wide transcriptional and microbiota changes.

Results. We demonstrate that chronic exposure to ecologically relevant concentrations of Glyphosate and Roundup at the approved regulatory threshold for drinking water in the US induce embryonic developmental failure, significant DNA damage (genotoxicity), and interfere with signaling. Furthermore, chronic exposure to the weedkiller alters the gut microbiota functionality and composition interfering with carbon and fat metabolism, as well as homeostasis. Using the ‘Reactome’, we identify conserved pathways across the Tree of Life, which are potential targets for Roundup in other species, including liver metabolism, inflammation pathways and collagen degradation, responsible for the repair of wounds and tissue remodeling.

Conclusions. Our results show that chronic exposure to concentrations of Roundup and Glyphosate at the approved regulatory threshold for drinking water causes embryonic development failure, and alteration of key metabolic functions via direct effect on the host molecular processes and indirect effect on the gut microbiota. The ecological model species Daphnia occupies a central position in the food web of aquatic ecosystems, being the preferred food of small vertebrates and invertebrates as well as a grazer of algae and bacteria. The impact of the weedkiller on this keystone species has cascading effects on aquatic food webs, affecting their ability to deliver critical ecosystem services.
Original languageEnglish
Article number170 (2020)
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020


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