Phytochelatin production by marine phytoplankton at low free metal ion concentrations: Laboratory studies and field data from Massachusetts Bay

Beth A. Ahner, Neil M. Price, Francois M. M. Morel

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Abstract

Phytochelatins are small metal-binding polypeptides synthesized by algae in response to high metal concentrations. Using a very sensitive HPLC method, we have quantified phytochelatins from phytoplankton in laboratory cultures at environmentally relevant metal concentrations and in marine field samples. Intracellular concentrations of phytochelatin, in the diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii, exhibit a distinct dose-response relation with free Cd2+ concentration in the medium-not with total Cd2+- and are detectable even when the free Cd2+ concentration is less than 1 pM. In Massachusetts Bay, phytochelatin levels (normalized to chlorophyll a) in the particulate fraction are similar to those measured in laboratory cultures exposed to picomolar free Cd2+ concentrations and exhibit a decreasing seaward trend. Incubations of natural samples with added Cd2+ confirmed the induction of the peptides by this metal. Ambient phytochelatin concentrations thus appear to provide a measure of the metal stress resulting from the complex mixture of trace metals and chelators in natural waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8433-8436
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume91
Issue number18
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 30 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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