The effects of lead and copper on the cellular architecture and metabolism of the red alga gracilaria domingensis

Claudiane Gouveia, Marianne Kreusch, Eder C. Schmidt*, Marthiellen R. Marthiellen, Luz K P Osorio, Debora T. Pereira, Rodrigo Dos Santos, Luciane C. Ouriques, Roberta De Paula Martins, Alexandra Latini, Fernanda Ramlov, Tiago José G Carvalho, Fungyi Chow, Marcelo Maraschin, Zenilda L. Bouzon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of lead and copper on apical segments of Gracilaria domingensis was examined. Over a period of 7 days, the segments were cultivated with concentrations of 5 and 10 ppm under laboratory conditions. The samples were processed for light, confocal, and electron microscopy, as well as histochemistry, to evaluate growth rates, mitochondrial activity, protein levels, chlorophyll a, phycobiliproteins, and carotenoids. After 7 days of exposure to lead and copper, growth rates were slower than control, and biomass loss was observed on copper-treated plants. Ultrastructural damage was primarily observed in the internal organization of chloroplasts and cell wall thickness. X-ray microanalysis detected lead in the cell wall, while copper was detected in both the cytoplasm and cell wall. Moreover, lead and copper exposure led to photodamage of photosynthetic pigments and, consequently, changes in photosynthesis. However, protein content and glutathione reductase activity decreased only in the copper treatments. In both treatments, decreased mitochondrial NADH dehydrogenase activity was observed. Taken together, the present study demonstrates that (1) heavy metals such as lead and copper negatively affect various morphological, physiological, and biochemical processes in G. domingensis and (2) copper is more toxic than lead in G. domingensis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-524
Number of pages12
JournalMicroscopy and Microanalysis
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • biochemical response
  • Gracilaria domingensis
  • heavy metal
  • morphology
  • photosynthetic pigments


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