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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Assessing Cu impacts on freshwater diatoms: biochemical and metabolomic responses of Tabellaria flocculosa (Roth) Kutzing

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


Metals are a recognised threat to aquatic organisms but the impact of metals such as copper (Cu) on benthic freshwater diatoms is poorly understood, even if diatoms are commonly used as water quality indicators. Our study aimed to elucidate the cellular targets of Cu toxicity and the mechanisms cells resort to counteract toxicity and to increase tolerance to Cu. A concerted approach analysing the biochemical, physiological and metabolome alterations in diatom cells was conducted by exposing the freshwater diatom Tabellaria flocattosa to 0, 0.3, 6 and 10 mu g Cu/L. Cu was already toxic to T. flocculosa at concentrations common in environments and which are not usually considered to be contaminated (0.3 mu g Cu/L). Under Cu impact, the metabolome of T. flocculosa changed significantly, especially at high concentrations (6 and 10 mu g Cu/L). Cu toxicity was counteracted by increasing extracellular immobilization (EPS, frustulins), antioxidant (SOD, CAT) and detoxifying (GSTs) enzymes activity and low molecular weight antioxidants (GSH). These mechanisms were fuelled by higher energy production (increased ETS activity). At the highest Cu concentration (10 mu g/L), these processes were specially enhanced in an attempt to restrain the oxidative stress generated by high intracellular Cu concentrations. However, these mechanisms were not able to fully protect cells, and damage in membranes and proteins increased. Moreover, the decrease of hydroxylamine and unsaturated fatty acids and the increase of saturated fatty acids, 2-palmiloylglycerol, glycerol and diterpenoid compounds should be tested as new specific markers of Cu toxicity in future studies. This information can support the prediction of diatom behaviour in different Cu contamination levels, including highly impacted environments, such as mining scenarios, and may assist in environmental risk assessment policies and restoration programs. (C) 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Copper; Freshwater diatoms; Tabellaria flocculosa; Physiological indicators; Metabolomics

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2018, Volume: 625, pages: 1234-1246