Research Colloquium: April Gu

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara



April Gu
Assistant Professor

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Northeastern University,

Boston, Massachusetts

Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010
11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1414

"A Transcriptional-Level Effect-Based Toxicity Assessment Method
for Environmental Monitoring."

Hosted by

Professor Patricia Holden

as part of the Seminar in Ecotoxicology



The contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), such as endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), pharmaceuticals, personal-care products (PPCPs) and nanomaterials, are anticipated to greatly increase the demands for their toxicity, ecological effects and risk assessments. Current whole animal/organism exposures-based methods used for regulatory decision-making in ecotoxicology are resource- and time-intensive, and they provide little information on toxicity mode of action (MOA) and cellular-level sub-lethal impact. Alternative and/or complimentary toxicity screening methods that are less costly but have informative endpoints are needed. Recently, we have explored the application of a toxicogenomics approach for toxicity assessment and screening of CECs, using a comprehensive GFP-infused bioluminescent whole-cell array. Compared with traditional microarray technology, this method is simpler and faster, and therefore feasible for screening a large number of chemicals. Further, it provides multi-dimensional transcriptional-level effect information, by adding a temporal dimension to the gene expression data, and can therefore more accurately reflect the chemical-induced cell responses that are time-dependent. We demonstrated that toxicogenomic data could also be used to potentially identify and classify compounds having similar MOAs (mode of action) while gaining diagnostic insights into the causal agents. One of the main challenges in applying toxicogenomics for environmental monitoring is the lack of a quantitative method to convert the rich toxicogenomic information into a readily usable and transferable format that can potentially link to regulation endpoints and be incorporated into ecological risk assessment and regulatory framework. We proposed and validated a new transcriptional effect level index (TELI) that exhibited a dose-response relationship and allowed for linking (“phenotype anchoring”) the transcriptional-level effects to conventional toxicity endpoints.


Dr. Gu is an assistant professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, faculty and track leader for Interdisciplinary Bioengineering Program within the College of Engineering, and affiliated faculty for Biotechnology Program with Bouve College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University in Boston. Before joining NU, she worked as a research scientist and process engineer with HDR Engineering in California for 3 years. She obtained her BS in environmental engineering and science from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China and a PhD in civil and environmental engineering, jointly in microbiology and ecology, from the University of Washington in Seattle. Her expertise and area of research interest include application of biotechnology for water-quality monitoring and toxicity assessment, biosensors, biological wastewater treatment processes and modeling, microbial ecology, bioavailability of nutrients in aquatic systems and bioremediation. She serves on a number of international and national committees for IWA, WEF and AWWA. She received an NSF CAREER award in 2009.


NOTE: Research colloquia are hosted by Bren faculty members and are generally high-level talks about research in a particular area of environmental science and management.


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