INTRACELLULAR METAL COMPARTMENTALIZATION IN THE GREEN ALGAL MODEL SYSTEM MICRASTERIAS DENTICULATA (STREPTOPHYTA) MEASURED BY TRANSMISSION ELECTRON MICROSCOPY–COUPLED ELECTRON ENERGY LOSS SPECTROSCOPY

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  • Received 23 June 2010. Accepted 2 November 2010.

Abstract

Entry of metals in form of aerosols into areas of high air humidity such as peat bogs represents a serious danger for inhabiting organisms such as the unicellular desmid Micrasterias denticulata Bréb. ex Ralfs (Desmidiaceae, Zynematophyceae, Streptophyta). To understand cellular detoxification and tolerance mechanisms, detailed intracellular localization of metal pollutants is required. This study localizes the metals aluminum (Al), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), and cadmium (Cd) in the green algal model system Micrasterias after experimental exposure to sulfate solutions by highly sensitive TEM-coupled electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS). Concentrations of the metals shown to induce inhibiting effects on cell development and cytomorphogenesis were chosen for these experiments. Long-term exposure to these metal concentrations led to a pronounced impact on cell physiology expressed by a general decrease in apparent photosynthesis. After long-term treatment, Zn, Al, and Cu were detected in the cell walls by EELS. Zn was additionally found in vacuoles and mucilage vesicles, and Cu in starch grains and also in mucilage vesicles. Elevated amounts of oxygen in areas where Zn, Al, and Cu were localized suggest sequestration of these metals as oxides. The study demonstrated that Micrasterias can cope differently with metal pollutants. In low doses and during a limited time period, the cells were able to compartmentalize Cu the best, followed by Zn and Al. Cu and Zn were taken up into intracellular compartments, whereas Al was only bound to the cell wall. Cd was not compartmentalized at all, which explains its strongest impact on growth, cell division rate, and photosynthesis in Micrasterias.

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