Mesnage, R, Teixeira, M, Mandrioli, D., Falcioni, L., Ducarmon, QR, Zwittink, RD, Mazzacuva, F, Caldwell, A, Halket, J, Amiel, C., Panoff, J. , Belpoggi, F., & Antoniou, MN; “Use of shotgun metagenomics and metabolomics to evaluate the impact of glyphosate or Roundup MON 52276 on the gut microbiota and serum metabolome of Sprague-Dawley rats;” Environmental Health Perspectives, 2021 (in press); DOI: 10.1289/EHP6990.
BACKGROUND: There is intense debate on whether glyphosate can inhibit the shikimate pathway of gastrointestinal microorganisms, with potential health implications.
OBJECTIVES: We tested whether glyphosate or its representative EU herbicide formulation Roundup MON 52276 affects the rat gut microbiome.
METHODS: We combined cecal microbiome shotgun metagenomics with serum and cecum metabolomics to assess the effects of glyphosate [0.5, 50, 175 mg=kg body weight (BW) per day] or MON 52276 at the same glyphosate-equivalent doses, in a 90-d toxicity test in rats.
RESULTS: Glyphosate and MON 52276 treatment resulted in ceca accumulation of shikimic acid and 3-dehydroshikimic acid, suggesting inhibition of 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase of the shikimate pathway in the gut microbiome. Cysteinylglycine, γ-glutamylglutamine, and valylglycine levels were elevated in the cecal microbiome following glyphosate and MON 52276 treatments. Altered cecum metabolites were not differentially expressed in serum, suggesting that the glyphosate and MON 52276 impact on gut microbial metabolism had limited consequences on physiological biochemistry. Serum metabolites differentially expressed with glyphosate treatment were associated with nicotinamide, branched-chain amino acid, methionine, cysteine, and taurine metabolism, indicative of a response to oxidative stress. MON 52276 had similar, but more pronounced, effects than glyphosate on the serum metabolome. Shotgun metagenomics of the cecum showed that treatment with glyphosate and MON 52276 resulted in higher levels of Eggerthella spp., Shinella zoogleoides, Acinetobacter johnsonii, and Akkermansia muciniphila. Shinella zoogleoides was higher only with MON 52276 exposure. In vitro culture assays with Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus strains showed that Roundup GT plus inhibited growth at concentrations at which MON 52276 and glyphosate had no effect.
DISCUSSION: Our study highlights the power of multi-omics approaches to investigate the toxic effects of pesticides. Multi-omics revealed that glyphosate and MON 52276 inhibited the shikimate pathway in the rat gut microbiome. Our findings could be used to develop biomarkers for epidemiological studies aimed at evaluating the effects of glyphosate herbicides on humans FULL TEXT.
Robinson, Claire, Portier, Christopher J., ČAvoŠKi, Aleksandra, Mesnage, Robin, Roger, Apolline, Clausing, Peter, Whaley, Paul, Muilerman, Hans, & Lyssimachou, Angeliki; “Achieving a High Level of Protection from Pesticides in Europe: Problems with the Current Risk Assessment Procedure and Solutions;” European Journal of Risk Regulation, 2020, 11(3), 450-480; DOI: 10.1017/err.2020.18.
The regulation of pesticides in the European Union (EU) relies on a network of hard law (legislation and implementing acts) and soft law (non-legally binding guidance documents and administrative and scientific practices). Both hard and soft laws govern how risk assessments are conducted, but a significant role is left to the latter. Europe’s pesticide regulation is one of the most stringent in the world. Its stated objectives are to ensure an independent, objective and transparent assessment of pesticides and achieve a high level of protection for health and environment. However, a growing body of evidence shows that pesticides that have passed through this process and are authorised for use may harm humans, animals and the environment. The authors of the current paper – experts in toxicology, law and policy – identified shortcomings in the authorisation process, focusing on the EU assessment of the pesticide active substance glyphosate. The shortcomings mostly consist of failures to implement the hard or soft laws. But in some instances the law itself is responsible, as some provisions can only fail to achieve its objectives. Ways to improve the system are proposed, requiring changes in hard and soft laws as well as in administrative and scientific practices. FULL TEXT
Mesnage, Robin, & Antoniou, Michael N.; “Computational modelling provides insight into the effects of glyphosate on the shikimate pathway in the human gut microbiome;” Current Research in Toxicology, 2020, 1, 25-33; DOI: 10.1016/j.crtox.2020.04.001.
The herbicide active ingredient glyphosate can affect the growth of microorganisms, which rely on the shikimate pathway for aromatic amino acid biosynthesis. However, it is uncertain whether glyphosate exposure could lead to perturbations in the population of human gut microbiota. We have addressed this knowledge gap by analysing publicly available datasets to provide new insights into possible effects of glyphosate on the human gut microbiome. Comparison of the abundance of the shikimate pathway in 734 paired metagenomes and metatranscriptomes indicated that most gut bacteria do not possess a complete shikimate pathway, and that this pathway is mostly transcriptionally inactive in the human gut microbiome. This suggests that gut bacteria are mostly aromatic amino acid auxotrophs and thus relatively resistant to a potential growth inhibition by glyphosate. As glyphosate blocking of the shikimate pathway is via inhibition of EPSPS, we classified E. coli EPSPS enzyme homologues as class I (sensitive to glyphosate) and class II (resistant to glyphosate). Among 44 subspecies reference genomes, accounting for 72% of the total assigned microbial abundance in 2144 human faecal metagenomes, 9 subspecies have class II EPSPS. The study of publicly available gut metagenomes also indicated that glyphosate might be degraded by some Proteobacteria in the human gut microbiome using the carbon–phosphorus lyase pathway. Overall, there is limited experimental evidence available for the effects of glyphosate on the human gut microbiome. Further investigations using more advanced molecular profiling techniques are needed to ascertain whether glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides can alter the function of the gut microbiome with consequent health implications. FULL TEXT
Mesnage, Robin, “Effects of dietary exposures to pesticide residues on the gut microbiome,” 2019, Presented 10/30/2019 at the London Microbiome Meeting 2019, Great Hall, King’s College London Strand Campus.
The gut microbiota: a major player in the toxicity of environmental pollutants?
Tsiaoussis, J., Antoniou, M. N., Koliarakis, I., Mesnage, R., Vardavas, C. I., Izotov, B. N., Psaroulaki, A., & Tsatsakis, A.; “Effects of single and combined toxic exposures on the gut microbiome: Current knowledge and future directions;” Toxicology Letters, 2019, 312, 72-97; DOI: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2019.04.014.
Human populations are chronically exposed to mixtures of toxic chemicals. Predicting the health effects of these mixtures require a large amount of information on the mode of action of their components. Xenobiotic metabolism by bacteria inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract has a major influence on human health. Our review aims to explore the literature for studies looking to characterize the different modes of action and outcomes of major chemical pollutants, and some components of cosmetics and food additives, on gut microbial communities in order to facilitate an estimation of their potential mixture effects. We identified good evidence that exposure to heavy metals, pesticides, nanoparticles, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, furans, polychlorinated biphenyls, and non-caloric artificial sweeteners affect the gut microbiome and which is associated with the development of metabolic, malignant, inflammatory, or immune diseases. Answering the question ‘Who is there?’ is not sufficient to define the mode of action of a toxicant in predictive modeling of mixture effects. Therefore, we recommend that new studies focus to simulate real-life exposure to diverse chemicals (toxicants, cosmetic/food additives), including as mixtures, and which combine metagenomics, metatranscriptomics and metabolomic analytical methods achieving in that way a comprehensive evaluation of effects on human health. FULL TEXT
Mesnage, R., Benbrook, C., & Antoniou, M. N.; “Insight into the confusion over surfactant co-formulants in glyphosate-based herbicides;” Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2019, 128, 137-145; DOI: 10.1016/j.fct.2019.03.053.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs). Other chemicals in GBHs are presumed as inert by regulatory authorities and are largely ignored in pesticide safety evaluations. We identified the surfactants in a cross-section of GBH formulations and compared their acute toxic effects. The first generation of polyethoxylated amine (POEA) surfactants (POE-tallowamine) in Roundup are markedly more toxic than glyphosate and heightened concerns of risks to human health, especially among heavily-exposed applicators. Beginning in the mid-1990s, first-generation POEAs were progressively replaced by other POEA surfactants, ethoxylated etheramines, which exhibited lower non-target toxic effects. Lingering concern over surfactant toxicity was mitigated at least in part within the European Union by the introduction of propoxylated quaternary ammonium surfactants. This class of POEA surfactants are approximately 100 times less toxic to aquatic ecosystems and human cells than previous GBH-POEA surfactants. As GBH composition is legally classified as confidential commercial information, confusion concerning the identity and concentrations of co-formulants is common and descriptions of test substances in published studies are often erroneous or incomplete. In order to resolve this confusion, laws requiring disclosure of the chemical composition of pesticide products could be enacted. Research to understand health implications from ingesting these substances is required. FULL TEXT
Mesnage, Robin, & Antoniou, Michael N, “Ignoring Adjuvant Toxicity Falsifies the Safety Profile of Commercial Pesticides,” Frontiers in Public Health, 2017, 5, 361. DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2017.00361.
Commercial formulations of pesticides are invariably not single ingredients. Instead they are cocktails of chemicals, composed of a designated pesticidal “active principle” and “other ingredients,” with the latter collectively also known as “adjuvants.” These include surfactants, antifoaming agents, dyes, etc. Some adjuvants are added to influence the absorption and stability of the active principle and thus promote its pesticidal action. Currently, the health risk assessment of pesticides in the European Union and in the United States focuses almost exclusively on the stated active principle. Nonetheless, adjuvants can also be toxic in their own right with numerous negative health effects having been reported in humans and on the environment. Despite the known toxicity of adjuvants, they are regulated differently from active principles, with their toxic effects being generally ignored. Adjuvants are not subject to an acceptable daily intake, and they are not included in the health risk assessment of dietary exposures to pesticide residues. Here, we illustrate this gap in risk assessment by reference to glyphosate, the most used pesticide active ingredient. We also investigate the case of neonicotinoid insecticides, which are strongly suspected to be involved in bee and bumblebee colony collapse disorder. Authors of studies sometimes use the name of the active principle (for example glyphosate) when they are testing a commercial formulation containing multiple (active principle plus adjuvant) ingredients. This results in confusion in the scientific literature and within regulatory circles and leads to a misrepresentation of the safety profile of commercial pesticides. Urgent action is needed to lift the veil on the presence of adjuvants in food and human bodily fluids, as well as in the environment (such as in air, water, and soil) and to characterize their toxicological properties. This must be accompanied by regulatory precautionary measures to protect the environment and general human population from some toxic adjuvants that are currently missing from risk assessments. FULL TEXT
Robin Mesnage, Sarah Z. Agapito-Tenfen, Vinicius Vilperte, George Renney, Malcolm Ward, Gilles-Eric Séralini, Rubens O. Nodari & Michael N. Antoniou, “An integrated multi-omics analysis of the NK603 Roundup-tolerant GM maize reveals metabolism disturbances caused by the transformation process,” Nature: Scientific Reports, 2016, 6:37855, DOI: 10.1038/srep37855
Glyphosate tolerant genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 was assessed as ‘substantially equivalent’ to its isogenic counterpart by a nutrient composition analysis in order to be granted market approval. We have applied contemporary in depth molecular profiling methods of NK603 maize kernels (sprayed or unsprayed with Roundup) and the isogenic corn to reassess its substantial equivalence status. Proteome profiles of the maize kernels revealed alterations in the levels of enzymes of glycolysis and TCA cycle pathways, which were reflective of an imbalance in energy metabolism. Changes in proteins and metabolites of glutathione metabolism were indicative of increased oxidative stress. The most pronounced metabolome differences between NK603 and its isogenic counterpart consisted of an increase in polyamines including N-acetyl-cadaverine (2.9-fold), N-acetylputrescine (1.8-fold), putrescine (2.7-fold) and cadaverine (28-fold), which depending on context can be either protective or a cause of toxicity. Our molecular profiling results show that NK603 and its isogenic control are not substantially equivalent. FULL TEXT
Gilles-Eric Séralini, Emilie Clair, Robin Mesnage, Steeve Gress, Nicolas Defarge, Manuela Malatesta, Didier Hennequin and Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, “Republished study: long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” Environmental Sciences Europe, Bridging Science and Regulation at the Regional and European Level, 2014, 26:14. DOI: 10.1186/s12302-014-0014-5
BACKGROUND: The health effects of a Roundup-tolerant NK603 genetically modified (GM) maize(from 11% in the diet), cultivated with or without Roundup application and Roundup alone (from 0.1 ppb of the full pesticide containing glyphosate and adjuvants) in drinking water, were evaluated for 2 years in rats. This study constitutes a follow-up investigation of a 90-day feeding study conducted by Monsanto in order to obtain commercial release of this GMO, employing the same rat strain and analyzing biochemical parameters on the same number of animals per group as our investigation. Our research represents the first chronic study on these substances, in which all observations including tumors are reported chronologically. Thus, it was not designed as a carcinogenicity study. We report the major findings with 34 organs observed and 56 parameters analyzed at 11 time points for most organs.
RESULTS: Biochemical analyses confirmed very significant chronic kidney deficiencies, for all treatments and both sexes; 76% of the altered parameters were kidney-related.In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5 to 5.5 times higher.Marked and severe nephropathies were also generally 1.3 to 2.3 times greater. In females, all treatment groups showed a two- to threefold increase in mortality,and deaths were earlier. This difference was also evident in three male groups fed with GM maize. All results were hormone- and sex-dependent, and the pathological profiles were comparable. Females developed large mammary tumors more frequently and before controls; the pituitary was the second most disabled organ; the sex hormonal balance was modified by consumption of GM maize and Roundup treatments.Males presented up to four times more large palpable tumors starting 600 days earlier than in the control group, in which only one tumor was noted. These results may be explained by not only the non-linear endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup but also by the over expression of the EPSPS transgene or other mutational effects in the GM maize and their metabolic consequences.
CONCLUSION: Our findings imply that long-term (2 year) feeding trials need to be conducted to thoroughly evaluate the safety of GM foods and pesticides in their full commercial formulations. FULL TEXT
Robin Mesnage, Matthew Arno, Manuela Costanzo, Manuela Malatesta, Gilles-Eric Séralini and Michael N. Antoniou, “Transcriptome profile analysis reflects rat liver and kidney damage following chronic ultra-low dose Roundup exposure,” Environmental Health, 2015, 14:70, DOI 10.1186/s12940-015-0056-1.
BACKGROUND: Glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) are the major pesticides used worldwide. Converging evidence suggests that GBH, such as Roundup, pose a particular health risk to liver and kidneys although low environmentally relevant doses have not been examined. To address this issue, a 2-year study in rats administering 0.1 ppb Roundup (50 ng/L glyphosate equivalent) via drinking water (giving a daily intake of 4 ng/kg bw/day of glyphosate) was conducted. A marked increased incidence of anatomorphological and blood/urine biochemical changes was indicative of liver and kidney structure and functional pathology. In order to confirm these findings we have conducted a transcriptome microarray analysis of the liver and kidneys from these same animals.
RESULTS: The expression of 4224 and 4447 transcript clusters (a group of probes corresponding to a known or putative gene) were found to be altered respectively in liver and kidney (p < 0.01, q < 0.08). Changes in gene expression varied from −3.5 to 3.7 fold in liver and from −4.3 to 5.3 in kidneys. Among the 1319 transcript clusters whose expression was altered in both tissues, ontological enrichment in 3 functional categories among 868 genes were found. First, genes involved in mRNA splicing and small nucleolar RNA were mostly upregulated, suggesting disruption of normal spliceosome activity. Electron microscopic analysis of hepatocytes confirmed nucleolar structural disruption. Second, genes controlling chromatin structure (especially histone-lysine N-methyltransferases) were mostly upregulated. Third, genes related to respiratory chain complex I and the tricarboxylic acid cycle were mostly downregulated. Pathway analysis suggests a modulation of the mTOR and phosphatidylinositol signalling pathways. Gene disturbances associated with the chronic administration of ultra-low dose Roundup reflect a liver and kidney lipotoxic condition and increased cellular growth that may be linked with regeneration in response to toxic effects causing damage to tissues. Observed alterations in gene expression were consistent with fibrosis, necrosis, phospholipidosis, mitochondrial membrane dysfunction and ischemia, which correlate with and thus confirm observations of pathology made at an anatomical, histological and biochemical level.
CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that chronic exposure to a GBH in an established laboratory animal toxicity model system at an ultra-low, environmental dose can result in liver and kidney damage with potential significant health implications for animal and human populations. FULL TEXT