The effect of sulfate on the bioconcentration of selenate by Chironomus decorus and Daphnia magna

  • Lisa D. Hansen
  • Kurt J. Maier
  • Allen W. Knight


Agricultural drainage containing high concentrations of selenium (Se) poses a continuing threat to wildlife in California's San Joaquin Valley. Drainage water from this area frequently contains high concentrations of sulfate, which are known to have mediating effects on the bioaccumulation and toxicity of Se in some organisms. It has been proposed that sulfate concentration should be a consideration in determining water quality criteria for Se. As a step toward analyzing the viability of such a plan, this study evaluated the effect of varying sulfate concentration on Se bioconcentration by two aquatic invertebrates. Fourth instar Chironomus decorus and neonate Daphnia magna were exposed, for a 48 h period, to 5.92 and 0.71 mg Se/L, as selenate, respectively. The selenium:sulfur (Se:S) ratio in the dilution waters ranged from 1:0 to 1:480 for C. decorus and 1:3 to 1:240 for D. magna. Increasing sulfate concentrations significantly reduced the accumulation of Se by both organisms. However, D. magna and C. decorus bioconcentrate Se differently at low sulfate concentrations. This difference can be explained by a two permease model for selenate/sulfate absorption. Although this experiment showed that sulfate may reduce selenate bioavailability to aquatic invertebrates, there is no indication that sulfate may completely eliminate selenate absorption. Thus, further research should be performed before sulfate concentration becomes a factor in the determination of water quality standards for selenium.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Public Health Association, American Water Works Association, Water Pollution Control Federation (1981) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater. 16th (ed) Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnhart RA (1957) Chemical factors affecting the survival of game-fish in a western Colorado reservoir. PhD Dissertation, Colorado State University, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  3. Breton A, Surdin-Kerjan Y (1977) Sulfate uptake in Saccharomyces cerevisiae: Biochemical and genetic study. J Bacteriol 132(1): 224–232Google Scholar
  4. Brown TA, Shrift A (1980) Assimilation of selenate and selenite by Salmonella typhimurium. Can J Microbiol 26:671–675Google Scholar
  5. —, — (1982) Selective assimilation of selenite by Escherichia coli. Can J Microbiol 28:307–309Google Scholar
  6. Bruland K, Cooke T (1986) Aquatic selenium speciation in California. Sacramento Water Resources Control Board, Sacramento, CAGoogle Scholar
  7. California Regional Water Quality Control Board (1990) Central Valley Region. Water quality in evaporation basins used for the disposal of agricultural subsurface drainage water in the San Joaquin Valley, California 1988 and 1989Google Scholar
  8. Coughlan S (1977) Sulphate uptake in Fucus serratus. J Exp Bot 28(106):1207–1215Google Scholar
  9. Cumbie PM, VanHorn SL (1978) Selenium accumulation associated with fish mortality and reproductive failure. Proc Annu Conf SE Assoc. Fish Wildl Agencies 32:612–624Google Scholar
  10. Frost DV, Lish PM (1975) Selenium in Biology. Annu Rev Pharmacol 15:259–284Google Scholar
  11. Ganther HE, Baumann CA (1962) Selenium metabolism-II. Modifying effects of sulfate. J Nutrition 77:408–414Google Scholar
  12. Gillespie RB, Bauman PC (1986) Effects of high tissue concentrations of selenium on reproduction by bluegills. Trans Am Fish Soc 115:208–213Google Scholar
  13. Hurd-Karrer AM (1938) Relation of sulphate to selenium absorption by plants. Am J Bot 25:666–675Google Scholar
  14. Ihnat M (1989) Occurrence and distribution of selenium. CRC Press, Inc, Boca Raton, FLGoogle Scholar
  15. Kumar HD, Prakash G (1971) Toxicity of selenium to the blue-green algae,, Anacystis nidulans and Anabaena variabilis. Ann Bot 35:697–705Google Scholar
  16. Kylin A (1967) The uptake and metabolism of sulphate in Scenedesmus as influenced by citrate, carbon dioxide, and metabolic inhibitors. Physiologia Plantarum 20:139–147Google Scholar
  17. Lass B, Ullrich-Eberius CI (1984) Evidence for proton/sulfate cotransport and its kinetics in Lemna gibba G1. Planta 161:53–60Google Scholar
  18. Leggett JE, Epstein E (1956) Kinetics of sulfate absorption by barley roots. Plant Physiol 31:222–226Google Scholar
  19. Maier KJ, Ogle RS, Knight AW (1988) The selenium problem in lentic ecosystems. Lake Reserv Manage 4(2):155–163Google Scholar
  20. Maier KJ (1990) The toxicity and bioaccumulation of selenium and boron to Daphnia magna and Chironomus decorus. PhD Dissertation, University of California, Davis, CAGoogle Scholar
  21. Mikkelson RL, Page AL, Bingham FT (1989) Factors affecting selenium accumulation by agricultural crops. In: Jacobs LW (ed) Selenium in the agricultural environment. Soil Science Society of American, Madison, WI, pp 65–94Google Scholar
  22. National Research Council (1983) Selenium in nutrition. National Academic Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  23. Ogle RS, Maier KJ, Kiffney P, Williams MJ, Brasher A, Melton LA, Knight AW (1988) Bioaccumulation of selenium in aquatic ecosystems. Lake Reserv Manage 4(2):165–173Google Scholar
  24. Ohlendorf HM, Hoffman DJ, Saiki MK, Aldrich TW (1986) Embryonic mortality and abnormalities of aquatic birds. Apparent impacts of selenium from irrigation drain water. Sci Total Environ 52:49–63Google Scholar
  25. Ohlendorf HM (1989) Bioaccumulation and effects of selenium in wildlife. In: Selenium in agriculture and the environment. Soil Science of America Special Publication no 23Google Scholar
  26. Pardee AB, Prestidge LS, Whipple MB, Dreyfuss J (1966) A binding site for sulfate and its relation to sulfate transport into Salmonella typhimuium. J Biol Chem 241(17):3962–3969Google Scholar
  27. Presser TS, Ohlendorf HM (1987) Biogeochemical cycling of selenium in the San Joaquin Valley, California, USA. Environ Manage 11:805–821Google Scholar
  28. Robinson JB (1969) Sulphate influx in Characean cells. J Exp Bot 20(63):212–220Google Scholar
  29. Sarma YSRK, Jayaraman S (1984) Observations on sulphur-selenium antagonism on the growth of two desmids. Acta Bot Ind 12:57–60Google Scholar
  30. Shrift A (1954a) Sulfur-selenium antagonism—I. Antimetabolite action of selenate on the growth of Chlorella vulgaris. Am J Bot 41:223–230Google Scholar
  31. — (1954b) Sulfur-selenium antagonism-II. Antimetabolite action of selenomethionine on the growth of Chlorella vulgaris. Am J Bot 41:345–352Google Scholar
  32. — (1961) Biochemical interrelations between selenium and sulfur in plants and microorganisms. Fed Proc 20:695–702Google Scholar
  33. — (1973) Selenium compounds in nature and medicine. E Metabolism of selenium by plants and microorganisms. In: Klayman DL, Gunther WHH (eds) Organic selenium compounds. Their chemistry and biology. Wiley-Interscience, NY, pp 773–777Google Scholar
  34. Skorupa J, Ohlendorf H (1991) Contaminants in drainage water and avian risk thresholds. In: Dinar A, Zilberman D (eds) The economy and management of water and drainage in agriculture. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Norwell, MAGoogle Scholar
  35. Sorensen EM (1982) Selenium accumulation and cytotoxicity in Teleosts following chronic environmental exposure. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 29:688–697Google Scholar
  36. Springer SE, Huber RE (1972) Evidence for a sulfate transport system in Escherichia Coli K-12. FEBS Lett 27(1):13–15Google Scholar
  37. Stadtman TC (1974) Selenium biochemistry. Proteins containing selenium are essential components of certain bacterial and mammalian enzyme systems. Science 183:915–922Google Scholar
  38. — (1979) Some selenium-dependent biochemical processes. Adv Enzymol Relat Areas Mol Biol 48:1–28Google Scholar
  39. Trelease SF, Trelease HM (1938) Selenium as a stimulating and possibly essential element for indicator plants. Am J Bot 25:372–380Google Scholar
  40. Tweedie JW, Segel IH (1970) Specificity of transport processes for sulfur, selenium, and molybdenum by filamentous fungi. Biochim Biophys Acta 196:95–106Google Scholar
  41. Weissman GS, Trelease SF (1955) Influence of sulfur on the toxicity of selenium to aspergillus. Am J Bot 42:489–495Google Scholar
  42. Wheeler AE, Zingaro RA, Irgolic K, Bottino NR (1982) The effect of selenate, selenite, and sulfate on the growth of six unicellular marine algae. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 57:181–194Google Scholar
  43. Williams MJ (1989) Sulfate and selenate antagonism in the green alga Selenastrum capricornutum. MS Thesis, University of California, Davis, CAGoogle Scholar
  44. Wilson LG, Bandurski RS (1958) Enzymatic reactions involving sulfate, sulfite, selenate, and molybdate. J Biol Chem 233:975–981Google Scholar
  45. Zehr JP, Oremland RS (1987) Reduction of selenate to selenide by sulfate-respiring bacteria. Experiments with cell suspensions and estuarine sediments. Appl Environ Microbiol 53(6):1365–1369Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa D. Hansen
    • 1
  • Kurt J. Maier
    • 1
  • Allen W. Knight
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Land, Air, and Water ResourcesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

Personalised recommendations