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Title: Mechanistic bases of metal tolerance : linking phenotype to genotype
Author: Anderson, Craig
ISNI:       0000 0004 2735 4730
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2012
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Ecotoxicology is currently undergoing a revolution as the result of new technological advances in molecular biology, capable of finely resolving metabolic mechanisms associated with exposure. These high-throughput analyses can detail the evolutionary and ecological implications of exposure in non-model organisms, such as the earthworm, Lumbricus rubellus. This terrestrial sentinel has been observed across former mine sites that are highly contaminated with arsenic and have been found to mitigate toxicity at soil concentrations that cause mortality in unadapted individuals. This is indicative of the adaptive capacity of natural populations recently exposed to persistent and strong selection pressure. However, mechanisms surrounding adaptation to arsenic in L. rubellus have yet to be characterised, and so the effects of exposure are broadly reported with the aim of distinguishing resistance from phenotypic plasticity in natural populations. Unadapted earthworms were initially used to derive basal phenotypic variation associated with arsenic exposure. Variation in life-history parameters was observed among adult and juvenile L. rubellus, establishing relative sensitivity and population-level inferences. A systems biology approach was employed to describe molecular mechanisms associated with arsenic metabolism, encompassing transcriptomic and metabolomic analyses, underpinned by arsenic speciation. Insight into the genetic bases of arsenic resistance, which enable persistence of L. rubellus at highly contaminated sites, was sought. Recombinant inbred lineages derived from adapted populations, were cultivated and their phenotypes relative to arsenic exposure determined. Phylogeographic analyses were used to interrogate genetic variation among populations inhabiting former mine sites as well as proximal control sites. A mitochondrial marker defined cryptic species across the UK, but did not establish soil chemical profiles relative to clade occurrence. RADseq better resolved genetic variation at these sites, determining that soil geochemistry is strongly associated with genetic variation. Furthermore, genomic markers inferred genetic erosion, found to selectively reduce variation at sites relative to a single clade.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QH Natural history