Genotoxic effects of glyphosate or paraquat on earthworm coelomocytes



The potential genotoxicity (nuclear anomalies, damage to single-strand DNA) and pinocytic adherence activity of two (glyphosate-based and paraquat-based) commercial herbicides to earthworm coelomocytes (immune cells in the coelomic cavity) were assessed. Coelomocytes were extracted from earthworms (Pheretima peguana) exposed to concentrations <LC50 of glyphosate-based or paraquat-based herbicides on filter paper for 48 h. Three assays were performed: Micronucleus (light microscopy count of micronuclei, binuclei, and trinuclei), Comet (epifluorescent microscope and LUCIA image analyzer measure of tail DNA %, tail length, and tail moment), and Neutral Red (to detect phagocytic or pinocytic activity). The LC50 value for paraquat was 65-fold lower than for glyphosate indicating that paraquat was far more acutely toxic to P. peguana. There were significant (P < 0.05) differences from the control group in total coelomocyte micronuclei, binuclei, and trinuclei frequencies of earthworms exposed to glyphosate at 25 × 10–1 (10–3 LC50) and paraquat at 39 × 10–5 (10–4 LC50) μg cm–2 filter paper. In earthworms exposed to glyphosate, no differences in tail DNA%, tail length, and tail moment of coelomocytes were detected. In contrast, for paraquat at 10–1 LC50 concentration, there were significant (P < 0.05) differences between tail DNA % and tail length, and at LC50 concentration, tail moment was also significantly different when compared with controls. A decline in pinocytic adherence activity in coelomocytes occurred on exposure to glyphosate or paraquat at 10–3 LC50 concentration. This study showed that, at concentrations well below field application rates, paraquat induces both clastogenic and aneugenic effects on earthworm coelomocytes whereas glyphosate causes only aneugenic effects and therefore does not pose a risk of gene mutation in this earthworm. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 29: 612–620, 2014.