Uptake of methylmercury by marine microalgae and its bioaccumulation in them


Assessment of methylmercury (MeHg) accumulation by marine microalgae is critical to understand the dynamics of mercury (Hg) and MeHg in marine environments. We conducted incubation experiments with added MeHg to reveal its bioaccumulation by four marine microalgal lineages. Cyanophyceae had a higher cellular MeHg accumulation than Pelagophyceae, Prymnesiophyceae, and Bacillariophyceae (diatom). MeHg accumulation was higher in living (than dead) diatom cells. Moreover, diatom cells did not release cellular MeHg during cell division and the stationary phase. Our findings suggest that the community composition and metabolic activity of marine microalgae can be critical for MeHg biomagnification in marine food webs.

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We are grateful to Prof. Dr. K. Suzuki (Hokkaido University) for assisting with the culturing of the microalgae, and Prof. Dr. K. Hamasaki (University of Tokyo) for assisting with estimating the microalgal cell sizes. We thank S. Onitsuka, A. Morimoto, and F. Hashimoto (NIMD) for assisting with the Hg and MeHg analyses. This study was financially supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Research Fellowships (no. 17K07896) to Y. T., and by the Environment Research and Technology Development Fund (5-1702) to K. M.

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Correspondence to Yuya Tada.

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Tada, Y., Marumoto, K. Uptake of methylmercury by marine microalgae and its bioaccumulation in them. J Oceanogr 76, 63–70 (2020).

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  • Marine microalgae
  • Methylmercury
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Living cell
  • Dead cell