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.
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
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
CJ Robinson, M Antoniou, MEM Habib, CV Howard, RC Jennings, C Leifert, RO Nodari, and J Fagan, “Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence,” Environmental and Analytical Toxicology, S:4, 2012, DOI: 10.4172/2161-0525.S4-006.
The publication of a study in 2010, showing that a glyphosate herbicide formulation and glyphosate alone caused malformations in the embryos of Xenopus laevis and chickens through disruption of the retinoic acid signalling pathway, caused scientific and regulatory controversy. Debate centred on the effects of the production and consumption of genetically modified Roundup Ready® soy, which is engineered to tolerate applications of glyphosate herbicide. The study, along with others indicating teratogenic and reproductive effects from glyphosate herbicide exposure, was rebutted by the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, BVL, as well as in industry-sponsored papers. These rebuttals relied partly on unpublished industry-sponsored studies commissioned for regulatory purposes, which, it was claimed, showed that glyphosate is not a teratogen or reproductive toxin.
However, examination of the German authorities’ draft assessment report on the industry studies, which underlies glyphosate’s EU authorisation, revealed further evidence of glyphosate’s teratogenicity. Many of the malformations found were of the type defined in the scientific literature as associated with retinoic acid teratogenesis. Nevertheless, the German and EU authorities minimized these findings in their assessment and set a potentially unsafe acceptable daily intake (ADI) level for glyphosate. This paper reviews the evidence on the teratogenicity and reproductive toxicity of glyphosate herbicides and concludes that a new and transparent risk assessment needs to be conducted. The new risk assessment must take into account all the data on the toxicity of glyphosate and its commercial formulations, including data generated by independent scientists and published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, as well as the industry-sponsored studies. 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
John Peterson Myers, Michael N. Antoniou, Bruce Blumberg, Lynn Carroll, Theo Colborn, Lorne G. Everett, Michael Hansen, Philip J. Landrigan, Bruce P. Lanphear, Robin Mesnage, Laura N. Vandenberg, Frederick S. vom Saal, Wade V. Welshons and Charles M. Benbrook. “Concerns over use of glyphosate-based herbicides and risks associated with exposures: a consensus statement,” Environmental Health, 2016, 15:19, DOI: 10.1186/s12940-016-0117-0.
The broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate (common trade name “Roundup”) was first sold to farmers in 1974. Since the late 1970s, the volume of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) applied has increased approximately 100-fold. Further increases in the volume applied are likely due to more and higher rates of application in response to the widespread emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds and new, pre-harvest, dessicant use patterns. GBHs were developed to replace or reduce reliance on herbicides causing well-documented problems associated with drift and crop damage, slipping efficacy, and human health risks. Initial industry toxicity testing suggested that GBHs posed relatively low risks to non-target species, including mammals, leading regulatory authorities worldwide to set high acceptable exposure limits. To accommodate changes in GBH use patterns associated with genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant crops, regulators have dramatically increased tolerance levels in maize, oilseed (soybeans and canola), and alfalfa crops and related livestock feeds. Animal and epidemiology studies published in the last decade, however, point to the need for a fresh look at glyphosate toxicity. Furthermore, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” In response to changing GBH use patterns and advances in scientific understanding of their potential hazards, we have produced a Statement of Concern drawing on emerging science relevant to the safety of GBHs. Our Statement of Concern considers current published literature describing GBH uses, mechanisms of action, toxicity in laboratory animals, and epidemiological studies. It also examines the derivation of current human safety standards. We conclude that: (1) GBHs are the most heavily applied herbicide in the world and usage continues to rise; (2) Worldwide, GBHs often contaminate drinking water sources, precipitation, and air, especially in agricultural regions; (3) The half-life of glyphosate in water and soil is longer than previously recognized; (4) Glyphosate and its metabolites are widely present in the global soybean supply; (5) Human exposures to GBHs are rising; (6) Glyphosate is now authoritatively classified as a probable human carcinogen; (7) Regulatory estimates of tolerable daily intakes for glyphosate in the United States and European Union are based on outdated science. We offer a series of recommendations related to the need for new investments in epidemiological studies, biomonitoring, and toxicology studies that draw on the principles of endocrinology to determine whether the effects of GBHs are due to endocrine disrupting activities. We suggest that common commercial formulations of GBHs should be prioritized for inclusion in government-led toxicology testing programs such as the U.S. National Toxicology Program, as well as for biomonitoring as conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FULL TEXT
Laura N Vandenberg, Bruce Blumberg, Michael N Antoniou, Charles M Benbrook, Lynn Carroll, Theo Colborn, Lorne G Everett, Michael Hansen, Philip J Landrigan, Bruce P Lanphear, Robin Mesnage, Frederick S vom Saal, Wade V Welshons, John Peterson Myers, “Is it time to reassess current safety standards for glyphosate-based herbicides?”, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2017, 0, DOI: 10.113/jech-2016-208463.
Use of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) increased ∼100-fold from 1974 to 2014. Additional increases are expected due to widespread emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds, increased application of GBHs, and preharvest uses of GBHs as desiccants. Current safety assessments rely heavily on studies conducted over 30 years ago. We have considered information on GBH use, exposures, mechanisms of action, toxicity and epidemiology. Human exposures to glyphosate are rising, and a number of in vitro and in vivo studies challenge the basis for the current safety assessment of glyphosate and GBHs. We conclude that current safety standards for GBHs are outdated and may fail to protect public health or the environment. To improve safety standards, the following are urgently needed: (1) human biomonitoring for glyphosate and its metabolites; (2) prioritisation of glyphosate and GBHs for hazard assessments, including toxicological studies that use state-of-the-art approaches; (3) epidemiological studies, especially of occupationally exposed agricultural workers, pregnant women and their children and (4) evaluations of GBHs in commercially used formulations, recognising that herbicide mixtures likely have effects that are not predicted by studying glyphosate alone. FULL TEXT