The effect of elevated pCO2 on cadmium resistance of a globally important diatom


• Elevated pCO2 alleviated Cd toxicity to P. tricornutum;

• P. tricornutum showed adaptation responses to OA after long-term selection;

• Long-term selected lineages expressed a specific Cd detoxification strategy;

• OA reduced Cd accumulation across trophic levels.


Cadmium (Cd) pollution is a widespread threat to marine life, and ongoing ocean acidification (OA) is predicted to impact bio-toxicity of Cd compounds. However, the cascading effects of changed Cd toxicity to marine primary producers are not well characterized. Here, we studied the impact of OA on Cd toxicity responses in a globally important diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum under both ambient and elevated pCO2 conditions. We found that increased pCO2 alleviated the impact of additive Cd toxicity on P. tricornutum not only under controlled indoor experiments but also in outdoor mesocosm experiments that reflect more natural growth conditions. Transcriptome analysis suggested that genes involved in Cd efflux and phytochelatin production were up-regulated and genes involved in Cd influx were down-regulated in long-term selected lineages under elevated pCO2. We further found a significant reduction of Cd transfer across trophic level, when the scallop Argopecten irradians was fed with Cd-exposed P. tricornutum previously cultured under elevated pCO2. Our results indicate that after long-term selection of P. tricornutum exposed to future OA conditions (i.e. elevated pCO2), the diatom alters its Cd detoxification strategy, which could have broader impacts on the bio-geochemical cycle of Cd in the marine ecosystem.

Zhang X., Xu D., Huang S., Wang S., Han W., Liang C., Zhang Y., Fan X., Zhang X., Wang Y., Wang W., Egan S., Saha M., Li F. & Ye N., in press. The effect of elevated pCO2 on cadmium resistance of a globally important diatom. Journal of Hazardous Material. Article (subscription required).

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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