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Aquat Toxicol. 2017 May 25;189:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2017.05.011. [Epub ahead of print]

Selenium accumulation and metabolism in algae.

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Biology Department, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1878, USA. Electronic address:
DAFNAE, University of Padova, Agripolis, 35020 Legnaro PD, Italy.
Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences (DSF), University of Padova, Padova, 35131, Italy.
Department of Biology, University of Padova, Padova, 35131, Italy.


Selenium (Se) is an intriguing element because it is metabolically required by a variety of organisms, but it may induce toxicity at high doses. Algae primarily absorb selenium in the form of selenate or selenite using mechanisms similar to those reported in plants. However, while Se is needed by several species of microalgae, the essentiality of this element for plants has not been established yet. The study of Se uptake and accumulation strategies in micro- and macro-algae is of pivotal importance, as they represent potential vectors for Se movement in aquatic environments and Se at high levels may affect their growth causing a reduction in primary production. Some microalgae exhibit the capacity of efficiently converting Se to less harmful volatile compounds as a strategy to cope with Se toxicity. Therefore, they play a crucial role in Se-cycling through the ecosystem. On the other side, micro- or macro-algae enriched in Se may be used in Se biofortification programs aimed to improve Se content in human diet via supplementation of valuable food. Indeed, some organic forms of selenium (selenomethionine and methylselenocysteine) are known to act as anticarcinogenic compounds and exert a broad spectrum of beneficial effects in humans and other mammals. Here, we want to give an overview of the developments in the current understanding of Se uptake, accumulation and metabolism in algae, discussing potential ecotoxicological implications and nutritional aspects.


Accumulation; Algae; Metabolism; Selenium; Toxicity; Uptake

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