Comparative evaluation of a bioluminescent bacterial assay in terrestrial ecotoxicity testing

D. Trott, Julian James Charles Dawson, Kenneth Stuart Killham, M. R. U. Miah, Michael John Wilson, Graeme Iain Paton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the widespread and successful use of luminescence-based bioassays in water testing, their applications to soils and sediments is less proven. In part this is because such bioassays have mainly been carried out in an aqueous-based medium and, as such, favour contaminants that are readily water-soluble. In this study, aqueous solutions and soils contaminated with heavy metals (HM), polar organic contaminants and hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs) were tested using a range of luminescence-based bioassays (Vibrio fischeri, Escherichia coli HB101 pUCD607 and Pseudomonas fluorescens 10586r pUCD607). For the first two chemical groups, the assays were highly reproducible when optimised extraction procedures were employed but for HOCs the bioassay response was poor. Quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSARs) obtained from aqueous solutions had a linear response although correlation for the chemicals tested using bacterial bioassays was significantly less sensitive than that of sublethal tests for Tetrahymena pyriformis. Bacterial and Dendrobaena veneta bioassay responses to extracts from HM amended soils showed that a clear relationship between trophic levels could be obtained. There is no doubt that the wide range of bioluminescent-based bioassays offers complementary applications to traditional testing techniques but there is a significant need to justify and optimise the extraction protocol prior to application.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-50
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Environmental Monitoring
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • polycyclic aromatic-hydrocarbons
  • obtaining soil solution
  • contaminated soils
  • extraction techniques
  • vibrio-fischeri
  • acute toxicity
  • pore-water
  • degradation
  • biosensors


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