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Exposure to naphthenic acids and the acid extractable organic fraction from oil sands process-affected water alters the subcellular structure and dynamics of plant cells

Alberts, Mitchell E., Chua, Gordon, Muench, Douglas G.
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.651 pp. 2830-2844
Golgi apparatus, bitumen, byproducts, endoplasmic reticulum, fluorescence, fluorescence microscopy, gene expression, microfilaments, microtubules, mitochondria, models, naphthenates, oil sands, peroxisomes, proteins, reactive oxygen species, remediation, surface mining, toxicity
Oil sands surface mining generates vast quantities of oil sands process-affected water (OSPW) as a by-product of bitumen extraction. The acid extractable organic (AEO) fraction of OSPW contains several contaminants, including naphthenic acids (NAs). While responses of living organisms to NA and AEO exposure have been described at the developmental, physiological, metabolic and gene expression levels, the effects of these compounds at the cellular and subcellular level are limited. Using live cell fluorescence microscopy and a suite of fluorescent marker proteins, we studied the intracellular responses of the plant cell cytoskeleton and several membrane-bound organelles to NA and AEO treatments. A rapid disassembly of cortical microtubules and a decrease in dynamics associated with actin filaments was observed in response to these treatments. Concomitantly, the integrity and dynamics of mitochondria, peroxisomes, Golgi stacks, and endoplasmic reticulum were also altered. AEO treatments were the most toxic to cells and resulted in the accumulation reactive oxygen species. This study provides foundational evidence for intracellular responses to NA and AEO exposure using two evolutionarily diverse model plant cell types. This cellular assay could be used to identify the most toxic components of AEO sub-fractions, and assist in determining the effectiveness of OSPW remediation efforts.