Scientific article

Bioavailability of trace metals to aquatic microorganisms: importance of chemical, biological and physical processes on biouptake

Published inBiochimie, vol. 88, no. 11, p. 1721-1731
Publication date2006

An important challenge in environmental biogeochemistry is the determination of the bioavailability of toxic and essential trace compounds in natural media. For trace metals, it is now clear that chemical speciation must be taken into account when predicting bioavailability. Over the past 20 years, equilibrium models (free ion activity model (FIAM), biotic ligand model (BLM)) have been increasingly developed to describe metal bioavailability in environmental systems, despite the fact that environmental systems are always dynamic and rarely at equilibrium. In these simple (relatively successful) models, any reduction in the available, reactive species of the metal due to competition, complexation or other reactions will reduce metal bioaccumulation and thus biological effects. Recently, it has become clear that biological, physical and chemical reactions occurring in the immediate proximity of the biological surface also play an important role in controlling trace metal bioavailability through shifts in the limiting biouptake fluxes. Indeed, for microorganisms, examples of biological (transport across membrane), chemical (dissociation kinetics of metal complexes) and physical (diffusion) limitation can be demonstrated. Furthermore, the organism can employ a number of biological internalization strategies to get around limitations that are imposed on it by the physicochemistry of the medium. The use of a single transport site by several metals or the use of several transport sites by a single metal further complicates the prediction of uptake or effects using the simple chemical models. Finally, once inside the microorganism the cell is able to employ a large number of strategies including complexation,compartmentalization, efflux or the production of extracellular ligands to minimize or optimize the reactivity of the metal. The prediction of trace metal bioavailability will thus require multidisciplinary advances in our understanding of the reactions occurring at and near the biological interface. By taking into account medium constraints and biological adaptability, future bioavailability modeling will certainly become more robust.

  • Bioaccumulation
  • Uptake
  • Internalization
  • Microbiology
  • Trace metal
  • Diffusion
  • Complex
  • Regulation
Citation (ISO format)
WORMS, Isabelle et al. Bioavailability of trace metals to aquatic microorganisms: importance of chemical, biological and physical processes on biouptake. In: Biochimie, 2006, vol. 88, n° 11, p. 1721–1731. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2006.09.008
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0300-9084

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