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Connecting suborganismal data to bioenergetic processes: killifish embryos exposed to a dioxin-like compound...

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Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
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A core challenge for ecological risk assessment is to integrate molecular responses into a chain of causality to organismal or population level outcomes. Bioenergetic theory may be a useful approach for integrating suborganismal responses to predict organismal level responses that influence population dynamics. We describe a novel application of Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB), theory in the context of a toxicity framework (Adverse Outcome Pathways, AOP) to make quantitative predictions of chemical exposures to individuals, starting from suborganismal data. We use early life stage exposure of Fundulus heteroclitus to dioxin-like chemicals (DLCs) and connect AOP Key Events (KEs) to DEB processes through “damage” that is produced at a rate proportional to the internal toxicant concentration. We use transcriptomic data of fish embryos exposed to DLCs to translate molecular indicators of damage into changes in DEB parameters (damage increases somatic maintenance costs) and use DEB models to predict sublethal and lethal effects of young fish. By changing a small subset of model parameters, we predict the evolved tolerance to DLCs in some wild F. heteroclitus populations, a data set not used in model parameterization. The differences in model parameters points to reduced sensitivity and altered damage repair dynamics as contributing to this evolved resistance. Our methodology has potential extrapolation to untested chemicals of ecological concern.