Department Environmental Toxicology

Systems Biology

As the number of different chemicals and nanomaterials pollutants in our waters increases and the aquatic environment is facing many climate related physical and chemical changes in the near future, it is becoming paramount that the paradigm of testing chemical safety on whole animals and plants shifts to cell culture based high throughput approaches. At the same time, it is necessary to stop looking for adverse effects on single species and instead focus on the effects of pollution on whole ecosystem. Together with the development of new experimental systems, mathematical modelling, especially the systems biology approach which tries to predict adverse outcomes of chemical on the level of a single cell, is of paramount importance.   

In the Systems Biology group, we are studying how to use mathematical modelling and statistics to integrate different types of ecotoxicological measurements and knowledge acquired in the community until now, either available in public or private data collections. Our goals are to understand the effects of chemicals on the cellular level, with the aim of later connecting this level to tissues, organs, organisms, communities and ecosystems. We want to understand, which biological molecules the chemicals interacts with, what cellular responses this interactions induce, e.g. in the form of gene expression regulation, and how the cell adapts or succumbs to the insult. We plan to do this by integrating our computational efforts with the efforts of our experimental colleagues, and the vast amount of data gathered in different OMICS studies in the past decade. The methods that we use most are gene expression analysis, network inference, dynamical modelling and metabolic modelling. Understanding the toxic effects on the cellular level will help in the assessment of risk of chemical and environmental stressors on the organism and the ecosystem level.


Dr. Stuart DennisTel. +41 58 765 6450Send Mail
Alexander BetzTel. +41 58 765 5658Send Mail


Dr. Anze ZupanicTel. +41 58 765 5402Send Mail




Eawag Discretionary Funds

Ongoing Research projects:

One of the most important challenges in environmental toxicology is to understand how responses to chemical pollutants scale through levels of biological complexity...
In recent years, OMICS (transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics) datasets combined with bioinformatic methods, such as differential gene expression analysis and network inference, have proven very useful for discovering biological networks.
The development of mathematical models for prediction of ecological risks posed by environmental chemicals requires good understanding of toxicological mechanisms.
File download: Differentially expressed transcripts for "Green Algae and Networks for Adverse Outcome Pathways"