A Novel In Situ Tool for the Exposure and Analysis of Microorganisms in Natural Aquatic Systems

American Chemical Society
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Environmental Science & Technology, 2009, 43 (21), pp. 8240 - 8244
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To evaluate the effects of contaminants or nutrient limitation in natural waters, it is often desirable to perform controlled exposures of organisms. While in situ exposures are routine for caged organisms or macrophytes, they are extremely difficult to perform for microorganisms, mainly due to difficulties in designing an exposure device that isolates the cells while allowing rapid equilibration with the external media. In this paper, a stirred underwater biouptake system (SUBS) based on the diffusion of chemicals across a semipermeable membrane housing a controlled population of microorganisms is reported. Cd diffusion through the semipermeable membrane was evaluated by voltammetry using a microelectrode. Comparison of stirred and unstirred solutions demonstrated a significantly increased diffusive flux in the presence of stirring. Lab tests using Chlamydomonas reinhardtii showed that diffusion across the semipermeable membrane was not limiting with respect to the biouptake of Cd. The SUBS device was field tested and the results of viability studies and trace metal biouptake by C. reinhardtii are reported. No diffusion limitation due to the SUBS was observed for Cd under the tested field conditions. The SUBS device was also shown to be useful for field exposures and subsequent measurements of trace metal uptake and viability. The results support the future use of the SUBS for the in situ measurement of phytochelatin/metallothionein production, photosynthetic efficiency, or reporter gene induction of controlled organisms.
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