Polychlorinated biphenyls disrupt cell division and tip growth in two species of fucoid algae


Author for correspondence: e-mail whable@umassd.edu.


Environmental contaminants, including poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), are enriched in coastal sediments, and despite a 1977 moratorium by the United States Environmental Protection Agency on the production of PCBs, levels remain high, more so near former industrial plants. The effects of these contaminants on sessile species in the intertidal zone, particularly nonanimal species such as the ubiquitous fucoid brown algae, are not well known. We investigated the developmental effects of chronic PCB treatment beginning at fertilization on two species of marine rockweed, Fucus vesiculosus Linnaeus and Silvetia compressa (J.Agardh) E.Serrão, T.O.Cho, S.M.Boo & Brawley. A mixture of the most widely used PCB congeners, Aroclors 1221, 1242, and 1254, was delivered at concentrations well below levels found in contaminated sediments, and resulted in severely delayed mitosis and cytokinesis in both species. In F. vesiculosus, this delay was accompanied by abnormal spindle morphology. PCB treatment also dramatically slowed or arrested rhizoid growth after 2–4 d, and by 7 d F. vesiculosus embryos were dead; in contrast, polar secretion of adhesive, germination, and photopolar germination were not affected. The dramatic delay in the first cell division and reduction in tip growth within the first week of development are likely to compromise S. compressa's ability to reproduce and establish new generations. Thus, the data presented here suggest that PCBs still present in coastal sediments may be inhibiting recruitment in these species. Moreover, as sediment dredging causes temporary spikes in PCB concentrations, these kinds of bioremediation steps may exacerbate the disruption of fucoid development.