Scientific article

Interactions between mercury and phytoplankton: Speciation, bioavailability, and internal handling

Published inEnvironmental toxicology and chemistry, vol. 33, no. 6, p. 1211-1224
Publication date2014

The present review describes and discusses key interactions between mercury (Hg) and phytoplankton to highlight the role of phytoplankton in the biogeochemical cycle of Hg and to understand direct or indirect Hg effects on phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are exposed to various Hg species in surface waters. Through Hg uptake, phytoplankton affect the concentration, speciation, and fate of Hg in aquatic systems. The mechanisms by which phytoplankton take up Hg are still not well known, but several studies have suggested that both facilitated transport and passive diffusion could be involved. Once internalized, Hg will impact several physiological processes, including photosynthesis. To counteract these negative effects, phytoplankton have developed several detoxification strategies, such as the reduction of Hg to elemental Hg or its sequestration by intracellular ligands. Based on the toxicological studies performed so far in the laboratory, Hg is unlikely to be toxic to phytoplankton when they are exposed to environmentally relevant Hg concentrations. However, this statement should be taken with caution because questions remain as to which Hg species control Hg bioavailability and about Hg uptake mechanisms. Finally, phytoplankton are primary producers, and accumulated Hg will be transferred to higher consumers. Phytoplankton are a key component in aquatic systems, and their interactions with Hg need to be further studied to fully comprehend the biogeochemical cycle of Hg and the impact of this ubiquitous metal on ecosystems.

  • Mercury
  • Methylmercury
  • Phytoplankton
  • Algae
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Swiss National Science Foundation - IZERZ0–142228
Citation (ISO format)
LE FAUCHEUR, Séverine et al. Interactions between mercury and phytoplankton: Speciation, bioavailability, and internal handling. In: Environmental toxicology and chemistry, 2014, vol. 33, n° 6, p. 1211–1224. doi: 10.1002/etc.2424
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0730-7268

Technical informations

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