Stress responses of sediment dwelling organisms offer novel opportunities to study the toxicity of compounds within that environment. Current analytical methods are limited and do not assess exposure or bioavailability. Restriction fragment differential display-polymerase chain reaction is a gene expression profiling technique that allows comparison of the effects of different chemicals on an organism. We used the restriction reaction to assess the potential of using stress responses of invertebrates to discriminate between different contaminants. Larvae of an infaunal invertebrate, Chironomus tentans, were exposed to polyaromatics (fluoranthrene, phenanthrene, and DDT), and metals (copper, zinc and lead) in 16 hr aqueous exposures. Distinctly different restriction reaction gene expression patterns were observed in response to these exposures. These results suggest that gene expression fingerprinting could complement current procedures for detecting contaminants or classes of contaminants. Application of this approach could result in significant cost savings to sediment dredging and remediation operations.

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