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Systems biology meets stress ecology: linking molecular and organismal stress responses in Daphnia magna

Lars-Henrik Heckmann12*, Richard M Sibly1, Richard Connon13, Helen L Hooper1, Thomas H Hutchinson45, Steve J Maund6, Christopher J Hill1, Anthony Bouetard1 and Amanda Callaghan1

  • * Corresponding author: Lars-Henrik Heckmann

Author affiliations

1 University of Reading, School of Biological Sciences, Environmental Biology, Philip Lyle Building, Reading, RG6 6BX, UK

2 University of Aarhus, National Environmental Research Institute, Department of Terrestrial Ecology, Vejlsøvej, DK-8600, Silkeborg, Denmark

3 University of California, School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology, Davis, California 95616, USA

4 AstraZeneca Global SHE, Brixham Environmental Laboratory, Devon, TQ5 8BA, UK

5 Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, The Hoe, Plymouth, PL1 3DH, UK

6 Syngenta Crop Protection AG, 4002 Basel, Switzerland

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Citation and License

Genome Biology 2008, 9:R40  doi:10.1186/gb-2008-9-2-r40

Published: 21 February 2008



Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have been designed to interrupt eicosanoid metabolism in mammals, but little is known of how they affect nontarget organisms. Here we report a systems biology study that simultaneously describes the transcriptomic and phenotypic stress responses of the model crustacean Daphnia magna after exposure to ibuprofen.


Our findings reveal intriguing similarities in the mode of action of ibuprofen between vertebrates and invertebrates, and they suggest that ibuprofen has a targeted impact on reproduction at the molecular, organismal, and population level in daphnids. Microarray expression and temporal real-time quantitative PCR profiles of key genes suggest early ibuprofen interruption of crustacean eicosanoid metabolism, which appears to disrupt signal transduction affecting juvenile hormone metabolism and oogenesis.


Combining molecular and organismal stress responses provides a guide to possible chronic consequences of environmental stress for population health. This could improve current environmental risk assessment by providing an early indication of the need for higher tier testing. Our study demonstrates the advantages of a systems approach to stress ecology, in which Daphnia will probably play a major role.