Differential acclimation of a marine diatom to inorganic mercury and methylmercury exposure

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-59
Journal / PublicationAquatic Toxicology
Online published1 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


Aquatic organisms originating from metal polluted water may exhibit differences in their sensitivity to metals, but the underlying physiological mechanisms resulting in such responses have not been well reported. In the present study, a marine diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii was chronically exposed to different inorganic mercury (Hg(II), 0.5 and 5μg Hg/L) or methylmercury (MeHg, 0.02 and 0.4μg Hg/L) concentrations for over 18 generations. We then quantified the changes in the Hg(II) or MeHg sensitivity, Hg accumulation, subcellular distribution, as well as thiol compound induction in the diatoms. We found an unchanged tolerance to Hg(II) but an enhanced tolerance to MeHg in the preconditioned T. weissflogii. The underlying mechanisms may be related to the changes in cellular mercury accumulation and the detoxification ability of the cells. Specifically, exposure to high-Hg(II) led to increased metal distribution in cellular debris fraction, as well as the induction of a variety of non-protein thiol compounds, but the uptake kinetics was not significantly modified by Hg(II) exposure. Instead, exposure to high-MeHg decreased the mercury uptake rate along with the synthesis of glutathione (GSH) and (γ-EC)2-Gly (PC2). All these responses contributed to the different tolerance developments between Hg(II) and MeHg. This study suggests that moderation of Hg bioavailability was probably more important than internal detoxification in the development of Hg acclimation in marine diatoms. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Research Area(s)

  • Acclimation, Biokinetics, Diatom, Mercury, Phytochelatins