, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 147-156

Detoxication of metals by marine bivalves: An ultrastructural study of the compartmentation of copper and zinc in the oyster Ostrea edulis

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An investigation of the mechanisms of detoxication of copper and zinc by the oyster Ostrea edulis (L) has been carried out using naturally occurring “green-sick” (contaminated by copper) and unpolluted oysters. Electron microprobe X-ray analysis of tissues in the electron microscope gives direct evidence for the structural compartmentation of copper and zinc in separate, specific, granular amoebocytes. The metals are immobilized in membrane-limited vesicles as different chemical compounds, copper being associated with sulphur and zinc with phosphorus. Chemical analyses of serum and tissues of normal and “green-sick” oysters indicate that (a) Cu and Zn are accumulated independently, (b) the Cu and Zn in the serum, while higher than in the surrounding sea water, are maintained at a 10-fold smaller level than the tissues, (c) toxicity is reduced by active uptake from the serum into granular amoebocytes, where it is further reduced by compartmentation in membrane-limited vesicles. It is calculated that the individual cell types may contain as much as 13,000 ppm Cu and 25,000 ppm Zn.