The preservation of genomic stability against environmental stressors is a major adaptive feature that is well-conserved among both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. The complex and fine-tuned mechanisms that evolved to repair DNA following exposure to radiation and chemical insult are also the first line of defence against genotoxicants. Consequently, impairing the DNA damage response leads to accumulation of genomic lesions that may ultimately lead to cell death, mutagenesis and even teratogenesis and neoplasia. Understanding how pollutants affect DNA repair machinery is thus paramount to interpret the often unclear or contradictory findings from genotoxicity assessment. The main purpose of the present mini-review is to contribute to the slowly-growing awareness among ecotoxicologists that DNA damage is not limited to direct interactions of noxious compounds with the DNA molecule. Despite the limited number of studies addressing this issue in the field, special modifications of methods for genotoxicity assessment, combined with state-of-the-art molecular tools, are beginning to show promising results in the unravelling of DNA repair proteins, genes and networks in non-conventional model organisms. I will review the essentials of the most important DNA repair pathways and discuss methods and approaches that can assist steering ecotoxicologists towards a better understanding of genotoxic hazard and risk.
- Chemical insult
- Genomic instability