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Differential toxic effects of mercuric chloride and methyl mercuric chloride on the fresh water alga poterioochromonas malhamensis



Differential toxic effects of mercuric chloride and methyl mercuric chloride on the fresh water alga poterioochromonas malhamensis



Aquatic Toxicology 3(1): 23-34



Mercuric chloride (Hg) and methylmercuric chloride (MeHg) were found to be extremely toxic to the freshwater flagellate P. malhamensis. On a molar basis the growth-inhibiting effect of MeHg was more than 2 orders of magnitude higher than that of Hg. MeHg disturbs cytokinesis and mitosis of the alga and leads to the formation of giant multinucleated cells, to polyploid nuclei and to numerous alterations in the nucleolar structures. After treatment of the alga with 0.025-0.05 .mu.M MeHg for 72 h, up to 10 nuclei were found in a single giant cell, and the percentage of polyploid nuclei increased up to 18%. In contrast, Hg did not selectively inhibit cytokinesis or increase the numbers of nuclei in the cells as compared to untreated controls, and polyploidization amounted to a maximum of 1.4% (10 .mu.M Hg, 72 h). The possible mechanism of action of both heavy metal compounds is discussed and it is assumed that the differing toxic effects are due to the amphiphilic nature of MeHg favoring interactions with lipophilic cell structures, above all with the cell membranes, which may represent the primary target of organometallic attack.

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