Heat shock proteins (Hsps) have provoked interest not only because of their involvement in human diseases but also for their potential as biomarkers of environmental pollution. Whereas the former interest is covered by numerous reports, the latter is an exciting new field of research. We report the isolation of the full-length cpn60 messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) and partial genomic deoxyribonucleic acid from the free-living, environmental sentinel nematode Plectus acuminatus, a species used in classical ecotoxicity tests. Although the primary sequence displays high identity scores to other nematodes and human Cpn60 (75% and 70%, respectively), the intron-exon structure differs markedly. Furthermore, although mRNA levels remained constant after exposure to ZnCl2 (0–330 μM) under laboratory conditions, protein levels increased significantly in a dose-dependent manner. In conclusion, this first account of molecular genetic similarities and differences of Cpn60 in a neglected nematode taxon provides a valuable insight into its potential uses in gene-based ecotoxicological risk assessment exercises.
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