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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Ackleson S, Balch WM, Holligan PM (1988) White waters of the Gulf of Maine. Oceanography 1(2):18–22
Agustí S, Duarte CM (2013) Phytoplankton lysis predicts dissolved organic carbon release in marine plankton communities. Biogeosciences 10(3):1259–1264
Agustí S, Sánchez MC (2002) Cell viability in natural phytoplankton communities quantified by a membrane permeability probe. Limnol Oceanogr 47(3):818–828
Fisher NS, Wente M (1993) The release of trace elements by dying marine phytoplankton. Deep Sea Res Part 1 Oceanogr Res Pap 40(4):671–694
Fitzgerald WF, Lamborg CH, Hammerschmidt CR (2007) Marine biogeochemical cycling of mercury. Chem Rev 107(2):641–662
Gorski PR, Armstrong DE, Hurley JP, Shafer MM (2006) Speciation of aqueous methylmercury influences uptake by a freshwater alga (Selenastrum capricornutum). Environ Toxicol Chem 25(2):534–540
Gosnell KJ, Mason RP (2015) Mercury and methylmercury incidence and bioaccumulation in plankton from the central Pacific Ocean. Mar Chem 177:772–780
Guillard RR (1975) Culture of phytoplankton for feeding marine invertebrates. Culture of marine invertebrate animals. Springer, Boston, pp 29–60
Hammerschmidt CR, Bowman KL (2012) Vertical methylmercury distribution in the subtropical North Pacific Ocean. Mar Chem 132:77–82
Hammerschmidt CR, Fitzgerald WF (2006) Photodecomposition of methylmercury in an arctic Alaskan lake. Environ Sci Technol 40(4):1212–1216
Hammerschmidt CR, Finiguerra MB, Weller RL, Fitzgerald WF (2013) Methylmercury accumulation in plankton on the continental margin of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Environ Sci Technol 47(8):3671–3677
Hayakawa M, Suzuki K, Saito H, Takahashi K, Ito SI (2008) Differences in cell viabilities of phytoplankton between spring and late summer in the northwest Pacific Ocean. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 360(2):63–70
Karimi R, Chen CY, Pickhardt PC, Fisher NS, Folt CL (2007) Stoichiometric controls of mercury dilution by growth. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104(18):7477–7482
Kim H, Van Duong H, Kim E, Lee BG, Han S (2014) Effects of phytoplankton cell size and chloride concentration on the bioaccumulation of methylmercury in marine phytoplankton. Environ Toxicol 29(8):936–941
Lamborg CH, Fitzgerald WF, Skoog A, Visscher PT (2004) The abundance and source of mercury-binding organic ligands in Long Island Sound. Mar Chem 90(1–4):151–163
Le Faucheur S, Campbell PG, Fortin C, Slaveykova VI (2014) Interactions between mercury and phytoplankton: speciation, bioavailability, and internal handling. Environ Toxicol Chem 33(6):1211–1224
Lee CS, Fisher NS (2016) Methylmercury uptake by diverse marine phytoplankton. Limnol Oceanogr 61(5):1626–1639
Lee CS, Fisher NS (2017) Bioaccumulation of methylmercury in a marine diatom and the influence of dissolved organic matter. Mar Chem 197:70–79
Lee CS, Fisher NS (2019) Microbial generation of elemental mercury from dissolved methylmercury in seawater. Limnol Oceanogr 64(2):679–693
Logar M, Horvat M, Akagi H, Pihlar B (2002) Simultaneous determination of inorganic mercury and methylmercury compounds in natural waters. Anal Bioanal Chem 374(6):1015–1021
Marr D, Hildreth E (1980) Theory of edge detection. Proc R Soc Lond B 207(1167):187–217
Marumoto K, Takeuchi A, Imai S, Kodamatani H, Suzuki N (2018) Mercury evasion fluxes from sea surfaces of the Tsushima Strait and Kuroshio Current in the East China Sea. Geochem J 52(1):1–12
Mason RP, Reinfelder JR, Morel FM (1996) Uptake, toxicity, and trophic transfer of mercury in a coastal diatom. Environ Sci Technol 30(6):1835–1845
Mason RP, Choi AL, Fitzgerald WF, Hammerschmidt CR, Lamborg CH, Soerensen AL, Sunderland EM (2012) Mercury biogeochemical cycling in the ocean and policy implications. Environ Res 119:101–117
Ministry of the Environment Japan (2004) Mercury analysis manual. The Committee for the Mercury Analysis Manual. https://www.nimd.go.jp/kenkyu/docs/march_mercury_analysis_manual(e).
Moye HA, Miles CJ, Phlips EJ, Sargent B, Merritt KK (2002) Kinetics and uptake mechanisms for monomethylmercury between freshwater algae and water. Environ Sci Technol 36(16):3550–3555
Munson KM, Lamborg CH, Swarr GJ, Saito MA (2015) Mercury species concentrations and fluxes in the Central Tropical Pacific Ocean. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 29(5):656–676
Pickhardt PC, Fisher NS (2007) Accumulation of inorganic and methylmercury by freshwater phytoplankton in two contrasting water bodies. Environ Sci Technol 41(1):125–131
Pickhardt PC, Folt CL, Chen CY, Klaue B, Blum JD (2002) Algal blooms reduce the uptake of toxic methylmercury in freshwater food webs. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99(7):4419–4423
R Development Core Team (2017) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. The R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. https://www.R-project.org. Accessed 7 Nov 2018 (ISBN 3-900051-07-0)
Rabenstein DL (1978) The aqueous solution chemistry of methylmercury and its complexes. Acc Chem Res 11(3):100–107
Shi XL, Lepere C, Scanlan DJ, Vaulot D (2011) Plastid 16S rRNA gene diversity among eukaryotic picophytoplankton sorted by flow cytometry from the South Pacific Ocean. PLoS ONE 6:e18979
Sun J, Liu D (2003) Geometric models for calculating cell biovolume and surface area for phytoplankton. J Plankton Res 25(11):1331–1346
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2001) Methyl mercury in water by distillation, aqueous ethylation, purge and trap, CVAFS. EPA-821-R-01-020, Engineering and Analysis Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Wiener JG, Bodaly RA, Brown SS, Lucotte M, Newman MC, Porcella DB, Reash RJ, Swain EB (2007) Monitoring and evaluating trends in methylmercury accumulation in aquatic biota. In: Harris RC, Krabbenhoft DP, Mason RP, Murray MW, Reash RJ, Saltman T (eds) Ecosystem responses to mercury contamination: indicators of change. Lewis CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 98–133
Wu Y, Wang WX (2011) Accumulation, subcellular distribution and toxicity of inorganic mercury and methylmercury in marine phytoplankton. Environ Pollut 159(10):3097–3105
Zhong H, Wang WX (2009) Controls of dissolved organic matter and chloride on mercury uptake by a marine diatom. Environ Sci Technol 43(23):8998–9003
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.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare there are no conflicts of interest.
About this article
Cite this article
Tada, Y., Marumoto, K. Uptake of methylmercury by marine microalgae and its bioaccumulation in them. J Oceanogr 76, 63–70 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10872-019-00525-6
- Marine microalgae
- Living cell
- Dead cell