Development of Randomly Amplifed Polymorphic DNA-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RAPD-PCR) Based Measures of Genetic Diversity as Bioindicators of Environmental Stress in Alpine and Great Lakes Ecosystems

EPA Grant Number: U915570
Title: Development of Randomly Amplifed Polymorphic DNA-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RAPD-PCR) Based Measures of Genetic Diversity as Bioindicators of Environmental Stress in Alpine and Great Lakes Ecosystems
Investigators: Sternberg, David C.
Institution: Miami University
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: July 1, 1999 through July 1, 2002
Project Amount: $95,764
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Health Risk Assessment , Academic Fellowships , Health Effects


The objective of this research project is to determine the suitability of randomly amplified polymorphic DNA-polymerase chain reaction (RAPD-PCR)-based measures of genetic diversity as an alternative to current acute and chronic toxicity tests of ecological risk in a wider variety of resource types. This preliminary study will assess the amenability of a new set of test organisms, while inhabiting streams in the alpine and Great Lakes ecosystems, to genetic diversity-based measures that sensitively, rapidly, and inexpensively assay the impact that anthropogenic stressors have on aquatic species. Furthermore, refinement of the RAPD protocol will make the test easier and more reproducible, allowing a wider variety of agencies that are seeking more sensitive bioindicators of ecosystem health to use RAPDs.


Recent advances in molecular biology enabled the development of an assessment technique that has the potential of identifying both acute and chronic effects of pollution earlier than other presently used methods. This method uses RAPD-PCR to generate genetic profiles of individuals within populations. The combined analysis of the RAPD profiles can provide useful information regarding species endemic to sites impacted by pollution. RAPD profiles have proven effective in determining the overall genetic diversity levels harbored within populations of both aquatic and terrestrial species. By analyzing the genetic health of endemic populations, this protocol is capable of identifying populations at risk prior to their local disappearance. RAPD profiling continues to gain acceptance by the scientific community. However, continued refinement of the method is required to establish RAPD profiling as a standard bioindicator of environmental contamination.

Expected Results:

This project will provide the framework necessary to perform long-term genetic diversity studies of species inhabiting lakes in the Sierra Nevadas and the Great Lakes region. The results generated during the period of this study will provide a baseline to measure future pollution-induced changes in the genetic health of lake populations. Knowledge of a species' current genetic diversity levels may have future impacts on both the individual test species and the ecosystems as a whole. Because levels of genetic variability in populations enable populations to adapt to environmental stress, knowledge of diversity levels is useful in maintaining viable populations of aquatic species. More importantly, the sensitivity of genetic diversity levels will enable officials to use RAPD profiling as an assessment method capable of identifying environmental threats earlier than the standard methods.

Supplemental Keywords:

diversity, genetic, randomly amplified polymorphic DNA, RAPD, impacts., Health, Scientific Discipline, Genetics, Health Risk Assessment, Risk Assessments, Environmental Microbiology, Biochemistry, Biology, bioindicator, DNA damage, environmental risks, exposure, genetic analysis, human exposure, RAPD PACR, exposure assessment, human health risk

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000
  • 2001
  • Final