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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

A freshwater diatom challenged by Zn: Biochemical, physiological and metabolomic responses of Tabellaria flocculosa(Roth) Kutzing

Goncalves, Sara; Kahlert, Maria; Almeida, Salome F. P.; Figueira, Etelvina


Freshwater ecosystems are under threatening anthropogenic pressures worldwide, namely by metals. Diatoms are used as water quality indicators, but the influence of micronutrients such as Zn and its impacts are poorly understood. Thus, our study aimed to elucidate the tolerance level, the cellular targets and the responses to counteract Zn toxicity of freshwater diatoms by exposing Tabellaria flocculosa, isolated from a Zn contaminated stream. Biochemical, physiological and metabolomic approaches were used. It was demonstrated that Zn is toxic to T. flocculosa at concentrations occurring in contaminated environments. At low stress (30 mu g Zn/L) few alterations in the metabolome were observed, but the enzymatic (SOD, CAT) and molecular (GSH, GSSG) antioxidant systems were induced, protecting cells from oxidative stress. At moderate stress (500 mu g Zn/L) the main changes occurred in the metabolome (increases in fatty acids, amino acids, terpenoids, glycerol and phosphate, decreases in sucrose and lumichrome) with a moderate increase in cell damage (LPO and PC). The concerted action of all these mechanisms resulted in a non-significant decrease of growth, explaining the survival of this T flocculosa strain in an environment with this Zn concentration. At the highest stress level (1000 mu g Zn/L) the metabolome was identical to 500 mu g Zn/L, and the induction of antioxidant systems and extracellular ion chelation (exopolysaccharides, frustulins) were the main responses to the increase of Zn toxicity. However, these mechanisms were unable to effectively abrogate cellular damage and growth reduction was observed. Moreover, the decrease in sucrose and especially in lumichrome should be tested as new specific markers of Zn toxicity. The information obtained in this study can assist in environmental risk assessment policies, support the prediction of diatom behaviour in highly impacted Zn environments, such as mining scenarios, and may help develop new indices, which include alterations induced by metals. (C) 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Zinc; Diatoms; Physiological and biochemical markers; Metabolomics; Tolerance strategies

Published in

Environmental Pollution
2018, Volume: 238, pages: 959-971