, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 793–802 | Cite as

Low exposure levels of urban metals induce heterotrophic community tolerance: a microcosm validation

  • Lise C. FechnerEmail author
  • Catherine Gourlay-Francé
  • Marie-Hélène Tusseau-Vuillemin


The biological response of periphyton chronically exposed to metals of urban origin (Cd, Ni and Zn) was investigated with a Pollution-Induced Community Tolerance (PICT) approach using a previously developed short-term toxicity test based on β-glucosidase (heterotrophic) activity. Periphyton was grown on plastic membranes immersed in indoor aquaria contaminated with metals at realistic contamination levels (0.3, 3 μg/l for Cd, 5, 50 μg/l for Ni, 20, 200 μg/l for Zn). After 3 weeks of exposure, biofilms’ parameters (dry-weight, chlorophyll a concentration, heterotrophic activity) were analyzed and tolerance acquisition of the heterotrophic communities was assessed using the toxicity test. Modifications of bacterial and eukaryotic community structure were assessed with Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis (ARISA). Effects of metal exposure were observed on biofilms parameters in the Cd and Zn experiments. Tolerance levels increased for both Cd-exposed biofilms, and for the high metal treatment biofilms in the Ni and Zn experiments. Analysis of the ARISA profiles showed that metal exposure affected the structure of both bacterial and eukaryotic communities. Moreover, Cd tolerance of the Zn-exposed heterotrophic communities was evaluated, which showed that the Zn-tolerant community (high metal treatment in the Zn experiment) also became tolerant to Cd (co-tolerance). The study shows that tolerance acquisition can be detected after exposure to environmental metal concentrations using β-glucosidase activity as an endpoint in short-term toxicity tests.


Biofilms Urban metal Community tolerance ARISA 



This study was supported by Office National de l’Eau et des Milieux Aquatiques (ONEMA). We are grateful to Aurélie Germain for her valuable help in the laboratory and to Julien Guieu for editing the English version of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10646_2011_630_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (897 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 896 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lise C. Fechner
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Catherine Gourlay-Francé
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marie-Hélène Tusseau-Vuillemin
    • 3
  1. 1.Cemagref-Unité de Recherche Hydrosystèmes et Bioprocédés, Parc de TourvoieAntony CedexFrance
  2. 2.FIREParisFrance
  3. 3.IFREMERIssy-Les-MoulineauxFrance

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