Investigating zinc toxicity responses in marine Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus

Indrani Sarker, Lisa R. Moore, Sasha G. Tetu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)


Marine plastic pollution is a growing concern worldwide and has the potential to impact marine life via leaching of chemicals, with zinc (Zn), a common plastic additive, observed at particularly high levels in plastic leachates in previous studies. At this time, however, little is known regarding how elevated Zn affects key groups of marine primary producers. Marine cyanobacterial genera Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus are considered to be some of the most abundant oxygenic phototrophs on earth, and together contribute significantly to oceanic primary productivity. Here we set out to investigate how two Prochlorococcus (MIT9312 and NATL2A) and two Synechococcus (CC9311 and WH8102) strains, representative of diverse ecological niches, respond to exposure to high Zn concentrations. The two genera showed differences in the timing and degree of growth and physiological responses to elevated Zn levels, with Prochlorococcus strains showing declines in their growth rate and photo-physiology following exposure to 27 µg l−1 Zn, while Synechococcus CC9311 and WH8102 growth rates declined significantly on exposure to 52 and 152 µg l−1 Zn, respectively. Differences were also observed in each strain’s capacity to maintain cell wall integrity on exposure to different levels of Zn. Our results indicate that excess Zn has the potential to pose a challenge to some marine picocyanobacteria and highlights the need to better understand how different marine Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus strains may respond to increasing concentrations of Zn in some marine regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number001064
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalMicrobiology (United Kingdom)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Anthropogenic pollution
  • Cell membrane integrity
  • Marine picocyanobacteria
  • Maximum quantum yield of PSII
  • Stress response
  • Zinc toxicity


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