Promise and progress in environmental genomics: a status report on the applications of gene expression-based microarray studies in ecologically relevant fish species


Present address: CSIRO Centre for Environmental Contaminants Research, Locked Bag 2007, Kirrawee, NSW 2232, Australia. Tel.: +61 02 9710 6839; email:


The advent of any new technology is typically met with great excitement. So it was a few years ago, when the combination of advances in sequencing technology and the development of microarray technology made measurements of global gene expression in ecologically relevant species possible. Many of the review papers published around that time promised that these new technologies would revolutionize environmental biology as they had revolutionized medicine and related fields. A few years have passed since these technological advancements have been made, and the use of microarray studies in non-model fish species has been adopted in many laboratories internationally. Has the relatively widespread adoption of this technology really revolutionized the fields of environmental biology, including ecotoxicology, aquaculture and ecology, as promised? Or have these studies merely become a novelty and a potential distraction for scientists addressing environmentally relevant questions? In this review, the promises made in early review papers, in particular about the advances that the use of microarrays would enable, are summarized; these claims are compared to the results of recent studies to determine whether the forecasted changes have materialized. Some applications, as discussed in the paper, have been realized and have led to advances in their field, others are still under development.