Biochemistry and Physiology of Heavy Metal Resistance and Accumulation in Euglena

  • Rafael Moreno-SánchezEmail author
  • Sara Rodríguez-Enríquez
  • Ricardo Jasso-Chávez
  • Emma Saavedra
  • Jorge D. García-García
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 979)


Free-living microorganisms may become suitable models for removal of heavy metals from polluted water bodies, sediments, and soils by using and enhancing their metal accumulating abilities. The available research data indicate that protists of the genus Euglena are a highly promising group of microorganisms to be used in bio-remediation of heavy metal-polluted aerobic and anaerobic acidic aquatic environments. This chapter analyzes the variety of biochemical mechanisms evolved in E. gracilis to resist, accumulate and remove heavy metals from the environment, being the most relevant those involving (1) adsorption to the external cell pellicle; (2) intracellular binding by glutathione and glutathione polymers, and their further compartmentalization as heavy metal-complexes into chloroplasts and mitochondria; (3) polyphosphate biosynthesis; and (4) secretion of organic acids. The available data at the transcriptional, kinetic and metabolic levels on these metabolic/cellular processes are herein reviewed and analyzed to provide mechanistic basis for developing genetically engineered Euglena cells that may have a greater removal and accumulating capacity for bioremediation and recycling of heavy metals.


Heavy metals accumulation Bioremediation Phytochelatins Polyphosphates 





High molecular weight complexes of thiol-molecules with Cd2+


Low molecular weight complexes of thiol-molecules with Cd2+


Phytochelatin synthase from E. gracilis


Expressed sequence tags


Dry weight




Phytochelatin synthase





The present work was partially supported by grants from CONACyT-México (Nos. 107183, 239930, 178638 and 156969) and Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología del Distrito Federal (No. PICS08-5) to SRE, RMS, ES and RJC.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafael Moreno-Sánchez
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sara Rodríguez-Enríquez
    • 1
  • Ricardo Jasso-Chávez
    • 1
  • Emma Saavedra
    • 1
  • Jorge D. García-García
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de BioquímicaInstituto Nacional de Cardiología Ignacio ChávezCiudad de MéxicoMéxico

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