Fraunhofer Attract Eco’n’OMICs

Molecular Screening for Environmental Side-Effects

Testing of Active Substance Precursors for Environmental Effects

Active substances of pesticides, biocides, drugs or cosmetics are deployed to the ecosystem either in a targeted manner or via their application to humans. Thereby, these substances can exert far-reaching adverse effects on non-target organisms. The ecological risk assessment of a continuously growing number of newly developed active substances represents a significant cost factor for the chemical industry. Moreover, the OECD-tests demanded by the regulatory authorities are time-consuming and intensive in resources, rendering them incompatible with a screening of substance precursors under development.


The application of recent OMICs methodology allows for a sensitive and genome-wide identification of substance-induced molecular changes in ecologically relevant organisms at the levels of DNA (Epigenome), RNA (Transcriptome) and proteins (Proteome). Moreover, such systems biology investigations need minimal resources, making them a promising approach for the early identification of environmental effects of substance precursors in the scope of a screening. In the same time, OMICs methods allow for a significant reduction in the number of animal tests. A deep knowledge about the substance-induced molecular changes and their direct linkage with phenotypes and population effects will facilitate an early identification of ecotoxic substances and the classification of substances regarding their environmental effects.

Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs)

The OMICs-based identification of pathways, which are perturbed by a specific substance, significantly contributes to the establishment of Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs). The AOP concept was developed to directly link molecular initiating events (MIEs) to the resulting adverse effects to the organism and the population and is increasingly gaining attention also by the regulatory authorities.

Fraunhofer Attract „Eco’n’OMICs“

The Fraunhofer Attract Group „Eco’n’OMICs“ combines ecotoxicological approaches with OMICs methodology (RNA-Seq, quantitative LC-MS/MS) in order to generate a data base of substance-specific early molecular changes preceding adverse effects on the organism and the population. These molecular fingerprints will be used to develop screening approaches for the environmental risk prediction of substance precursors under development. The availability of such a screening for environmental side-effects already during early substance development will avoid the costly development of substance precursors with a high ecotoxicological potential and will allow for a sustainable development of environmentally safe active substances.


Selected Publications

Ayobahan, S.U., Alvincz, J., Reinwald, H., Strompen, J., Salinas, G., Schäfers, C., Eilebrecht, E., Eilebrecht, S.
Comprehensive identification of gene expression fingerprints and biomarkers of sexual endocrine disruption in zebrafish embryo
Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 2023,

Essfeld, F., Reinwald, H., Salinas, G., Schäfers, C., Eilebrecht, E., Eilebrecht, S.
Transcriptomic profiling of clobetasol propionate-induced immunosuppression in challenged zebrafish embryos

(2022) Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.

Loll, A., Reinwald, H., Ayobahan, S.U., Göckener, B., Salinas, G., Schäfers, C., Schlich, K., Hamscher, G., Eilebrecht, S.
Short-Term Test for Toxicogenomic Analysis of Ecotoxic Modes of Action in Lemna minor

(2022) Environmental Science & Technology.

Feller, F. M.; Eilebrecht, S.; Nedielkov, R.; Yücel, O.; Alvincz, J.; Salinas, G.; Ludwig, K. C.; Möller, H.; Philipp, B.:
Investigations on the Degradation of the Bile Salt Cholate via the 9,10-Seco-Pathway Reveals the Formation of a Novel Recalcitrant Steroid Compound by a Side Reaction in Sphingobium sp. Strain
Chol11. Microorganisms 2021, 9(10), 2146,

Reinwald, H.; Alvincz, J.; Salinas, G.; Schäfers, C.; Hollert, H.; Eilebrecht, S.:
Toxicogenomic profiling after sublethal exposure to nerve- and muscle-targeting insecticides reveals cardiac and neuronal developmental effects in zebrafish embryos.

, 132746 (November 2021),

Pfaff, J.; Reinwald, H.; Ayobahan, S.; Alvincz, J.; Göckener, B.; Shomroni, O.; Salinas, G.; Düring, R.-A.; Schäfers, C.; Eilebrecht, S.:
Toxicogenomic differentiation of functional responses to fipronil and imidacloprid in Daphnia magna,
Aquatic Toxicology, 105927, Vol. 238 (September 2021)

Reinwald, H., König, A., Ayobahan, S., Alvincz, J., Göckener, B., Böhle, G., Shomroni, O., Hollert, H., Salinas, G., Schäfers, C., Eilebrecht, E., Eilebrecht, S.:
Toxicogenomic fin(ger)prints for thyroid disruption AOP refinement and biomarker identification in zebrafish embryos.
Science of the Total Environment., Article number: 143914 (December 2020 online first)
DOI: 10.1016/j.scititenv.2020.143914

Ayobahan, S.; Eilebrecht, S.; Baumann, L.; Teigeler, M.; Hollert, H.; Kalkhof, S.; Eilebrecht, E.; Schäfers, C.:
Detection of biomarkers to differentiate endocrine disruption from hepatotoxicity in zebrafish (Danio rerio) using proteomics.
Chemosphere, Article number: 124970 (2019 online first). Volume 240, February 2020
DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2019.124970

Ayobahan, S.; Eilebrecht, E.; Kotthoff, M.; Baumann, L.; Eilebrecht, S.; Teigeler, M.; Hollert, H.; Kalkhof, S.; Schäfers, C..:
A combined FSTRA-shotgun proteomics approach to identify molecular changes in zebrafish upon chemical exposure.
Scientific Reports
. Volume 9, Article number: 6599 (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-43089-7

Brüggemann, M.; Licht, O.; Fetter, E.; Teigeler, M.; Schäfers, C.; Eilebrecht, E..:
Knotting nets: Molecular junctions of interconnecting endocrine axes identified by application of the adverse outcome pathway concept.
Environmental toxicology and chemistry
37.2 (2018): 318-328. DOI: 10.1002/etc.3995

Muth-Köhne, E.; Westphal-Settele, K.; Brückner, J.; Konradi, S.; Schiller, V.; Schäfers, C.; Teigeler, M.; Fenske, M..:
Linking the response of endocrine regulated genes to adverse effects on sex differentiation improves comprehension of aromatase inhibition in a Fish Sexual Development Test.
Aquatic Toxicology 176 (2016): 116-127. DOI: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2016.04.018