Hormesis depends upon the life-stage and duration of exposure: Examples for a pesticide and a nanomaterial

William Tyne*, Simon Little, David J. Spurgeon, Claus Svendsen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    32 Citations (Scopus)


    Tests to assess toxic effects on the reproduction of adult C. elegans after 72h exposure for two chemicals, (3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea (DCMU)), also known as diuron, and silver nanoparticles (Ag NPs) indicated potential, although not significant hormesis. Follow up toxicity tests comparing the potential hormesis concentrations with controls at high replication confirmed that the stimulatory effect was repeatable and also statistically significant within the test. To understand the relevance of the hormesis effects for overall population fitness, full life-cycle toxicity tests were conducted for each chemical. When nematodes were exposed to DCMU over the full life-span, the hormesis effect for reproduction seen in short-term tests was no longer evident. Further at the putative hormesis concentrations, a negative effect of DCMU on time to maturation was also seen. For the Ag NPs, the EC<inf>50</inf> for effects on reproduction in the life-cycle exposure was substantially lower than in the short-term test, the EC<inf>50</inf>s estimated by a three parameter log logistic model being 2.9mg/L and 0.75mg/L, respectively. This suggests that the level of toxicity for Ag NPs for C. elegans reproduction is dependant on the life stage exposed and possibly the duration of the exposure. Further, in the longer duration exposures, hormesis effects on reproduction seen in the short-term exposures were no longer apparent. Instead, all concentrations reduced both overall brood size and life-span. These results for both chemicals suggest that the hormesis observed for a single endpoint in short-term exposure may be the result of a temporary reallocation of resources between traits that are not sustained over the full life-time. Such reallocation is consistent with energy budget theories for organisms subject to toxic stress.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)117-123
    Number of pages7
    JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
    Early online date6 Jun 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


    • Caernohabditis elegans
    • DCMU
    • Hormesis
    • Nanoparticle
    • Silver

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
    • Pollution


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