Toxic effect and bioaccumulation of selenium in green alga Chlorella pyrenoidosa

  • Yufeng Zhao
  • Xinshan Song
  • Xin CaoEmail author
  • Yuhui Wang
  • Zhihao Si
  • Yan Chen


Se is required for the growth and metabolism of many species of microalgae. However, high concentrations of Se show toxicity to microalgal cells. In the study, the biomass, growth rate, total Se content, organic Se content, SOD, CAT, and LPO of Chlorella pyrenoidosa in an environment containing Se were determined to explore the effects of selenite on the growth of C. pyrenoidosa in different growth phases (exponential phase, late exponential phase, and early stationary phase). Bioaccumulation and conversion of selenium in C. pyrenoidosa and toxic effect of selenium were further explored. A low dosage of selenite could promote the growth of C. pyrenoidosa, but the higher Se concentration strongly inhibited growth and led to the low biomass. Algae cells in exponential phase could be exposed to high doses of selenium (≤ 5 mg L−1), which was higher than that for the cells in late exponential phase (≤ 2 mg L−1) and the cells in early stationary phase (≤ 2 mg L−1). The optimal growth conditions for enriching selenium in C. pyrenoidosa in exponential phase were determined as 2 mg L−1 selenite and 5-day cultivation. The highest transformation mass was 78 ± 0.5% and corresponding intracellular accumulation of organic Se was 72 ± 0.1 μg g−1 dry weight. The lower Se concentration induced the activities of oxidases, which was conducive to the growth of microalgal cells. The higher concentration of Se significantly induced the activities of oxidases, indicating that Se accumulation had a significant toxic effect on C. pyrenoidosa. In this way, a great quantity of Se-enriched biomass can be produced for nutritional purposes.


Chlorella pyrenoidosa Chlorophyta Selenium Bioaccumulation Antioxidants Toxicity 


Funding information

The authors are gratefully to acknowledge the financial support from the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (No. 2018M641894) and  the National Nature Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 51679041 and 41471089).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yufeng Zhao
    • 1
  • Xinshan Song
    • 1
  • Xin Cao
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yuhui Wang
    • 1
  • Zhihao Si
    • 1
  • Yan Chen
    • 1
  1. 1.State Environmental Protection Engineering Center for Pollution Treatment and Control in Textile Industry, College of Environmental Science and EngineeringDonghua UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China

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