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Biodynamics of mercury in mussel tissues as a function of exposure pathway: natural vs microplastic routes

Rivera-Hernández, José R., Fernández, Beatriz, Santos-Echeandia, Juan, Garrido, Soledad, Morante, María, Santos, Pablo, Albentosa, Marina
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.674 pp. 412-423
biomechanics, exposure pathways, feces, hemolymph, marine environment, mercury, microalgae, microplastics, mussels, pollutants, risk, stomach, tissues
In the marine environment, metals can be present dissolved or adsorbed to suspended particles. In the last decades a new type of particle has been introduced, microplastics (MPs). The exposure route of pollutants influences their accumulation and distribution into tissues. A pulse-chase experiment was conducted in which mussels were exposed to Hg: adsorbed onto MPs and microalgae (MA) and dissolved (WB). Mussels accumulated the same amount of Hg independently of particle, due to the Hg loading in both particles and their acceptability were similar. The highest Hg accumulation occurred in gill when the Hg exposure was through water and in digestive gland when Hg was adsorbed to particles. More than 70% of the Hg uptake through MPs was quickly eliminated due to: i) part of the cleared MPs might not really be ingested but adhered to body surfaces of mussels, ii) MPs ingested were eliminated through faeces as they are non-nutritive particles which may be rejected in stomach preventing their entry into digestive gland and iii) high affinity of Hg on surface of MPs which meant that Hg was mainly eliminated jointly to MPs. The organic nature of MA facilitates the entry of Hg into digestive gland where MA are intracellularly digested releasing the Hg adsorbed onto their surfaces. In this case, Hg may reach deeper levels by translocation of the Hg incorporated into gland towards foot and remaining tissues, a process that might occur through haemolymph. All of the Hg accumulated in WB during the exposure was internally absorbed into tissues, and later translocated from gill to gland. Although Hg elimination rate in MPs mussels was greater than in the other exposure pathways, an important amount of Hg was maintained through the depuration period, thus we cannot and should not neglect the risk of MPs as vectors for mercury.