Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) continue to cause environmental challenges as a result of their release into the environment by a great variety of anthropogenic activities and their accumulation in soils. Studies were conducted on the toxicological effect of the model PAH phenanthrene using the soil invertebrate model Enchytraeus crypticus at the individual, tissue, and molecular levels. Animals were exposed for 2 d and 21 d to phenanthrene concentrations corresponding to the (previously estimated) 3-wk effective concentration, 10% (EC10) and EC50 for effects on reproduction. Gene expression profiling did not reveal a typical phenanthrene-induced biotransformation signature, as it usually does in arthropods and vertebrates. Instead, after 2 d of exposure, only general metabolic processes were affected, such as translation and adenosine triphosphate synthesis-coupled electron transport. Histological sections of tissues of 2-d exposed animals showed no deviations from control. In contrast, after prolonged exposure of up to 21 d, histopathological effects were found: chloragogenous cells were highly vacuolated and hypertrophic. This was corroborated by differential expression of genes related to immune response and oxidative stress at the transcriptomic level. The data exemplify the complexity and species-specific features of PAH toxicity among soil invertebrate communities, which restricts read-across and extrapolation in the context of soil ecological risk assessment. Environ Toxicol Chem 2016;35:2713–2720. © 2016 SETAC.