The effect of marine dissolved organic carbon on nickel accumulation in early life-stages of the sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus

Tamzin A. Blewett, Erin M. Leonard, Chris N. Glover, Grant B. McClelland, Chris M. Wood, James C. McGeer, Robert C. Santore, D. Scott Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review


Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) is known to ameliorate the toxicity of the trace metal nickel (Ni) to aquatic animals. In theory, this effect is mediated by the capacity of DOC to bind Ni, rendering it less bioavailable, with the resulting reduction in accumulation limiting toxicological effects. However, there is a lack of experimental data examining Ni accumulation in marine settings with natural sources of DOC. In the current study, radiolabelled Ni was used to examine the time- and concentration-dependence of Ni accumulation, using naturally sourced DOC, on developing larvae of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Contrary to prediction, the two tested natural DOC samples (collected from the eastern United States, DOC 2 (Seaview park, Rhode Island (SVP)) and DOC 7 (Aubudon Coastal Center, Connecticut)) which had previously been shown to protect against Ni toxicity, did not limit accumulation. The control (artificial seawater with no added DOC), and the DOC 2 sample could mostly be described as having saturable Ni uptake, whereas Ni uptake in the presence of DOC 7 was mostly linear. These data provide evidence that DOC modifies the bioavailability of Ni, through either indirect effects (e.g. membrane permeability) or by the absorption of DOC-Ni complexes. There was some evidence for regulation of Ni accumulation in later-stage embryos (96-h) where the bioconcentration factor for Ni declined with increasing Ni exposure concentration. These data have implications for predictive modelling approaches that rely on known relationships between Ni speciation, bioavailability and bioreactivity, by suggesting that these relationships may not hold for natural marine DOC samples in the developing sea urchin model system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109150
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - C Toxicology and Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - Dec. 2021


  • Biotic ligand model
  • Embryos
  • Metals
  • Natural organic matter
  • Nickel
  • Toxicity


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