Although nickel exposure results in allergic reactions, respiratory conditions, and cancer in humans and rodents, the ramifications of excess nickel in the environment for animal and human health remain largely undescribed. Nickel
and other cationic metals travel through waterways and bind to soils and sediments. To evaluate the potential toxic effects of nickel at environmental contaminant levels (8.9-7,600 μg Ni/g dry weight of sediment and 50-800 μg NiCl2/L of water), we conducted assays using two cosmopolitan nematodes, Caenorhabditis elegans and Pristionchus pacificus. We assayed the effects of both sediment-bound and aqueous nickel upon animal growth, developmental
survival, lifespan, and fecundity. Uncontaminated sediments were collected from sites in the Midwestern United States and spiked with a range of nickel concentrations. We found that nickel-spiked sediment substantially impairs
both survival from larval to adult stages and adult longevity in a concentration-dependent manner. Further, while aqueous nickel showed no adverse effects on either survivorship or longevity, we observed a significant decrease in fecundity, indicating that aqueous nickel could have a negative impact on nematode physiology. Intriguingly, C. elegans and P. pacificus exhibit similar, but not identical, responses to nickel exposure. Moreover, P. pacificus could be tested successfully in sediments inhospitable to C. elegans. Our results add to a growing body of literature documenting the impact of nickel on animal physiology, and suggest that environmental toxicological studies could gain an advantage by widening their repertoire of nematode species.
Additional publication details
Assaying environmental nickel toxicity using model nematodes