Aquatic toxicology (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Multigenerational exposure of the microalga Tetraselmis suecica to diuron leads to spontaneous long-term strain adaptation.

PMID 23896289


To investigate the ability of microalgae to develop stable, long-term resistance to herbicides, the marine microalga Tetraselmis suecica was exposed to the herbicide diuron (5 μg/L) for a 43-generation exposure period followed by a 12-generation depuration phase. During the first 25 generations, diuron-exposed cultures showed doubling times ranging from 1.95 to 2.6 days, which was 2 to 2.5-fold longer than control cultures. Between generations 25 and 38, during diuron exposure, two out of the three exposed cultures exhibited a spontaneous drop in doubling time. These results provided evidence of culture adaptation to diuron. To assess persistence of the diuron adaptation observed on growth performance, one of the adapted cultures (D3) was maintained for 12 months in unexposed conditions and then tested by a second, short-term exposure to diuron 5 μg/L, in parallel with a control culture (C1) for six generations. Flow cytometry analyses were used to monitor cell density, viability, morphology, relative chlorophyll content and intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) level. Under these conditions, diuron induced a strong increase of doubling time in exposed-C1 cultures (2.5-fold longer than unexposed-C1 cultures), but no significant increase occurred in exposed D3-cultures compared with unexposed D3- and unexposed C1-cultures, showing the persistence of adaptation in the previously-exposed strain D3. Intracellular ROS level showed the same trend. Significant differences were observed between these strains, with weaker effects of diuron on strain D3 compared with strain C1: forward scatter (FSC), representing relative cell size, decreased in exposed cultures (67.8% and 95% of the controls for C1 and D3, respectively), whereas FL3 as relative chlorophyll content increased in exposed cultures (115.6% and 108.6% of the controls for C1 and D3, respectively). Results of second exposure to diuron revealed that the adaptation of strain D3 had persisted after 12 months of depuration, as no growth impairment was observed. This study demonstrates the possible appearance of stable diuron resistance in microalgae in cases of strong, multigenerational chronic exposure to this herbicide in polluted environments.

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