Uptake, toxicity, and trophic transfer of mercury in a coastal diatom

Robert P. Mason, John Reinfelder, François M.M. Morel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

457 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The primary mechanisms controlling the accumulation of methylmercury and inorganic mercury in aquatic food chains are not sufficiently understood. Differences in lipid solubility alone cannot account for the predominance of methylmercury in fish because inorganic mercury complexes (e.g., HgCl 2 ), which are not bioaccumulated in fish, are as lipid soluble as their methylmercury analogs (e.g., CH 3 HgCl). Mercury concentrations in fish are ultimately determined by methylmercury accumulation at the base of the food chain, which is governed by water chemistry, primarily pH and chloride concentration. Our studies of mercury speciation, toxicity, and phytoplankton uptake demonstrate that passive uptake of uncharged, lipophilic chloride complexes is the principal accumulation route of both methylmercury and inorganic mercury in phytoplankton. The predominance of methylmercury in fish, however, is a consequence of the greater trophic transfer efficiency of methylmercury than inorganic mercury. In particular, methylmercury in phytoplankton, which accumulates in the cell cytoplasm, is assimilated by zooplankton four times more efficiently than inorganic mercury, which is principally bound in phytoplankton membranes. On the basis of these results, we constructed a simple model of mercury accumulation in fish as a function of the overall octanol-water partition coefficient of methylmercury. Our model can explain the variability of mercury concentrations in fish within, but not among, different lake regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1835-1845
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume30
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 6 1996

Fingerprint

methylmercury
Mercury
Toxicity
diatom
toxicity
Fish
Phytoplankton
fish
phytoplankton
food chain
Chlorides
lipid
chloride
Lipids
mercury
Octanols
Water
cytoplasm
partition coefficient
water chemistry

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

Cite this

Mason, Robert P. ; Reinfelder, John ; Morel, François M.M. / Uptake, toxicity, and trophic transfer of mercury in a coastal diatom. In: Environmental Science and Technology. 1996 ; Vol. 30, No. 6. pp. 1835-1845.
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Uptake, toxicity, and trophic transfer of mercury in a coastal diatom. / Mason, Robert P.; Reinfelder, John; Morel, François M.M.

In: Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 30, No. 6, 06.06.1996, p. 1835-1845.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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