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Anal Bioanal Chem. 2011 May;400(4):1015-29. doi: 10.1007/s00216-010-4209-3. Epub 2010 Oct 1.

Free Ca2+ as an early intracellular biomarker of exposure of cyanobacteria to environmental pollution.

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Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain.


Calcium functions as a versatile messenger in a wide variety of eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. Cyanobacteria are photoautotrophs which have a great ecological impact as primary producers. Our research group has presented solid evidence of a role of calcium in the perception of environmental changes by cyanobacteria and their acclimation to these changes. We constructed a recombinant strain of the freshwater cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. PCC 7120 that constitutively expresses the calcium-binding photoprotein apoaequorin, enabling in-vivo monitoring of any fluctuation in the intracellular free calcium concentration of the cyanobacterium in response to any environmental stimulus. The "Ca(2+) signature" is the combination of changes in all Ca(2+) signal properties (magnitude, duration, frequency, source of the signal) produced by a specific stimulus. We recorded and analyzed the Ca(2+) signatures generated by exposure of the cyanobacterium to different groups of environmental pollutants, for example cations, anions, organic solvents, naphthalene, and pharmaceuticals. We found that, in general, each group of tested chemicals triggered a specific calcium signature in a reproducible and dose-dependent manner. We hypothesize that these Ca(2+) signals may be related to the cellular mechanisms of pollutant perception and ultimately to their toxic mode of action. We recorded Ca(2+) signals triggered by binary mixtures of pollutants and a signal induced by a real wastewater sample which could be mimicked by mixing its main constituents. Because Ca(2+) signatures were induced before toxicity was evident, we propose that intracellular free Ca(2+) may serve as an early biomarker of exposure to environmental pollution.

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