, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 807-821

Fundamental roles of biological barriers in mercury accumulation and transfer in freshwater ecosystems (analysis at organism, organ, cell and molecular levels)

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In the framework of an ecotoxicological approach to the processes of bioaccumulation and transfer of Hg in freshwater systems, we present a synthesis of our experimental studies concerning the interactions between inorganic Hg and MeHg and biological barriers

  • - at organism and organ levels : three biological models are selected: fish (Salmo gairdneri), burrowing mayfly nymphs (Hexagenia rigida) and rooted macrophytes (Elodea densa, Ludwigia natans). Results show strong specificities of the biological barriers (gills, intestine, roots, ...) towards metal fixation and absorption, closely related to the chemical form of the metal, the contamination sources (water, sediments or food) and the physico-chemical characteristics of the medium ;

  • - at cell and molecular levels : biophysical study of Hg fixation on membrane reveals a new binding site on the phospholipids, the primary amine group on serine and ethanolamine polar heads, jointly with the SH groups of proteins ; Hg(II) induces a strong rigidification of the phospholipidic bilayers. Inorganic Hg and MeHg transports through model membranes (BLM) are essentially due to diffusion of neutral chloride species. These interactions between Hg compounds and membranes are strongly dependent on Hg chemical speciation (pH and pCl effects).