Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 2129–2141 | Cite as

Gracilaria tenuistipitata (Rhodophyta) tolerance to cadmium and copper exposure observed through gene expression and photosynthesis analyses

  • Angela Pedroso TononEmail author
  • Paulo Adriano Zaini
  • Vanessa dos Reis Falcão
  • Mariana Cabral Oliveira
  • Jonas Collén
  • Catherine Boyen
  • Pio Colepicolo


Heavy metals are toxic to all organisms and their presence can have great impact on ecosystems. The study of strategies to remove contaminants is thus important, as is increased understanding of the resistance mechanisms of candidate organisms to be used as phytoremediators. The present study evaluate the genes involved in chronic stress using two different expression techniques to profile the transcriptome of the marine macroalga Gracilaria tenuistipitata after exposure to the EC50 of cadmium (Cd) and copper (Cu). Some known molecular markers for chronic pollution were observed, indicating that resistance mechanisms are induced within the first hour of treatment. Differences in gene expression response patterns between the two metals were found, where Cd up-regulated the expressions of superoxide dismutase and the nitrate transporter NRT even after 6 days of exposure. Expressions of both nuclear and chloroplast-encoded proteins were affected, and a stronger tolerance mechanism involving proteins of unknown function is certainly connected to the tolerance of the alga, warranting further studies. After 6 days of exposure to Cd or Cu, a slower acclimation was detected for the latter. Analysis of the photosynthetic rate revealed acclimation over time, corroborating a previous study where G. tenuistipitata was able to accumulate these metals and tolerate their negative effects, reinforcing the potential use of this macroalga in integrated bioremediation processes.


Heavy metals Marine macroalgae Gene expression Stress response 


Funding information

This work was supported by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP), Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).

Supplementary material

10811_2017_1360_MOESM1_ESM.docx (278 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 277 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Bioquímica, Instituto de QuímicaUniversidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Botany, Institute of BiosciencesUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.UMR 8227, Integrative Biology of Marine Models, Station Biologique de RoscoffSorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris VIRoscoffFrance
  4. 4.CNRS, UMR 8227, Integrative Biology of Marine Models, Station Biologique de RoscoffRoscoffFrance

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