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Aquat Toxicol. 2009 Jan 18;91(1):54-61. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2008.10.003. Epub 2008 Oct 14.

Growth-inhibitory and metal-binding proteins in Chlorella vulgaris exposed to cadmium or zinc.

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  • 1College of Bioengineering, Jimei University, Xiamen, 361021, P R China.


Phytochelatins, with the general structure of (gamma-Glu-Cys)n-Gly (n=2-11), are usually recognized as being strongly induced by metals in microalgae and play an important role in the detoxification of heavy metals in environment. However, there have been few studies on metallothionein (MT) synthesis in Chlorella vulgaris (C. vulgaris) exposed to heavy metals. The present study describes the growth inhibition of C. vulgaris exposed to different concentrations of cadmium and zinc, and the induction of metal-binding MT-like proteins in the cells. The amounts of metal-binding proteins, induced in the alga exposed to different concentrations of Cd and Zn, were analyzed with a size-exclusion HPLC coupled to ICP-MS. After being purified with a gel filtration column (Sephadex G-75, 3.5cmx80cm) and a desalting column (G-25, 1.5cmx30cm), the isoforms and sub-isoforms of Zn-binding protein were characterized by a reverse phase-HPLC coupled to electrospray ionization and a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer (HPLC-ESI-MS/MS). In addition, the ultraviolet spectra of purified Zn-binding proteins were analyzed in media with different pH values. The results showed that the significant inhibitory effects (at p<0.05) on the cell growth were observed when excessive metals such as 80micromoll(-1) of Cd, and 60 and 80micromoll(-1) of Zn were added. The Cd/Zn-binding proteins induced in C. vulgaris exposed to Cd and Zn were referred to as Cd/Zn-MT-like proteins in which the mean molecular mass of the apo-MT-like was 6152Da. The induced Cd/Zn-MT-like proteins might be involved in the detoxification of heavy metals, such as cadmium and zinc, by the alga.

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