Intracellular speciation and transformation of inorganic mercury in marine phytoplankton

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

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-129
Journal / PublicationAquatic Toxicology
Online published14 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


Metal speciation is closely related to toxicity in aquatic organisms, but quantitative study of mercury transformation has rarely been reported. In this study, the ability of three marine phytoplankton species, including a green alga Chlorella autotrophica, a flagellate Isochrysis galbana and a diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii, to convert inorganic mercury were examined. We found that all algae tested were able to transform Hg(II) into dissolved gaseous mercury (DGM), phytochelatin (PC) complexes and metacinnabar (β-HgS). The most tolerant species, T. weissflogii, generally produced the highest level of PCs and β-HgS. Attributed to the highest DGM production ability, C. autotrophica accumulated the least Hg, but was the most sensitive due to low PC induction and β-HgS formation. Of the added Hg(II), less than 5% was reduced to DGM per day in all species. Of the intracellular Hg, <20% and 20-90% were chelated by PCs and transformed into β-HgS, respectively. These results suggest that intracellular biotransformation might be more important than bioavailability regulation in Hg(II) detoxification in marine phytoplankton. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

Research Area(s)

  • Dissolved gaseous mercury, Inorganic mercury, Metacinnabar, Phytochelatin, Phytoplankton