Copper (Cu) is a heavy metal that is widely used in industry and as such wastewater from mining or industrial operations can contain high levels of Cu. Some aquatic algal species can tolerate and bioaccumulate Cu and so could play a key role in bioremediating and recovering Cu from polluted waterways. One such species is the green alga Desmodesmus sp. AARLG074. The aim of this study was to determine how Desmodesmus is able to tolerate large alterations in its external Cu and pH environment. Specifically, we set out to measure the variations in the Cu removal efficiency, growth, ultrastructure, and cellular metabolite content in the algal cells that are associated with Cu exposure and acidity. The results showed that Desmodesmus could remove up to 80% of the copper presented in Jaworski's medium after 30 min exposure. There was a decrease in the ability of Cu removal at pH 4 compared to pH 6 indicating both pH and Cu concentration affected the efficiency of Cu removal. Furthermore, Cu had an adverse effect on algal growth and caused ultrastructural changes. Metabolite fingerprinting (FT-IR and GC-MS) revealed that the polysaccharide and amino acid content were the main metabolites affected under acid and Cu exposure. Fructose, lactose and sorbose contents significantly decreased under both acidic and Cu conditions, whilst glycerol and melezitose contents significantly increased at pH 4. The pathway analysis showed that pH had the highest impact score on alanine, aspartate and glutamate metabolism whereas Cu had the highest impact on arginine and proline metabolism. Notably both Cu and pH had impact on glutathione and galactose metabolism.
- metabolite fingerprinting
- pathway analysis