Journal of Oceanology and Limnology

, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 2194–2201 | Cite as

Effects of the heavy metal cadmium on photosynthetic activity and the xanthophyll cycle in Phaeodactylum tricornutum

  • Yan Ji (季琰)
  • Xiujun Xie (解修俊)
  • Guangce Wang (王广策)Email author


Cadmium (Cd) is one of the most common and widespread heavy metals in the environment. Cd has adverse effects on photosynthesis that are countered by photosystem I (PSI) and photosystem II (PSII); however, the protective responses of these photosystems to heavy metal stress remain unclear. Using the model diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum, a biological indicator that is widely used to assess the impact of environmental toxins, we simultaneously measured the effects of Cd on PSI and PSII and examined the levels of pigments in response to high light treatments before and after Cd exposure. Cd significantly reduced the quantum yield and electron transport rates of PSI and PSII. The quantum yield of non-photochemical energy dissipation in PSI due to donor side limitation increased faster than the quantum yield due to acceptor side limitation. The Cd treatment activated the P. tricornutum xanthophyll cycle under artificial light conditions, as indicated by an increased diatoxanthin content. Xanthophyll is important for photoprotection; therefore, the accumulation of diatoxanthin may down-regulate PSII activities to reduce oxidative damage. Together, our results suggest that the rapid reduction in PSII activities following Cd exposure is an adaptive response to heavy metal stress that reflects the variable exposure to external stressors in the native P. tricornutum environment.


heavy metal cadmium photosystem I photosystem II Phaeodactylum tricornutum 


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We thank Shelley Robison, PhD, from Liwen Bianji, Edanz Group China (, for editing the English text of a draft of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Chinese Society for Oceanology and Limnology, Science Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yan Ji (季琰)
    • 1
  • Xiujun Xie (解修俊)
    • 2
    • 3
  • Guangce Wang (王广策)
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Biological and Chemical EngineeringQingdao Technical CollegeQingdaoChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Experimental Marine Biology, Institute of OceanologyChinese Academy of SciencesQingdaoChina
  3. 3.Laboratory for Marine Biology and BiotechnologyQingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and TechnologyQingdaoChina

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