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Keywords:

  • reactive oxygen species;
  • trace metals;
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii; algae

The toxicity of metals to organisms is, in-part, related to the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in cells and subsequent oxidative stress. ROS are by-products of normal respiration and photosynthesis processes in organisms, but environmental factors, like metal exposure, can stimulate excess production. Metals involved in several different mechanisms such as Haber-Weiss cycling and Fenton-type reactions can produce ROS. Some metals, such as Cd, may contribute to oxidative stress indirectly by depleting cellular antioxidants. We investigated the measurement of ROS as a sensitive biomarker of metal toxicity (that could possibly be implemented in a biotic ligand model for algae) and we compared ROS induction in response to several contrasting transition metals (Cu, V, Ni, Zn, and Cd). We also compared the ROS response to glutathione and growth toxicity endpoints measured in a previous study. The cell-permeable dye, 2′7′dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate, was used as a probe to detect formation of ROS in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii cells. Metal-exposed cells were incubated with the fluorescent dye in a 96-well plate and monitored over 5.5 h. A dose-response of ROS formation was observed with Cu exposure in the range of 20–500 nM. Cu produced more ROS compared with either Zn or Cd (both nonredox active metals). The redox-active metal V produced increased ROS with increased concentration. The measurement of ROS may be a useful indicator of Cu toxicity, but the signal to noise ratio was better for the glutathione endpoint assay. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 28: 516–523, 2013.