Selenium uptake, volatilization, and transformation by the cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa and post-treatment of Se-laden biomass

Chuanqi Zhou, Jung Chen Huang, Xinyu Gan, Shengbing He, Weili Zhou

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9 Citations (Scopus)


With a narrow margin between beneficial and toxic effects, selenium (Se) is of great concern due to its increasing level in aquatic environments. The accumulation and transformation of Se by the cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa and effects of nutrients, particularly sulfate, were investigated. The nutrient-deprived cyanobacterium removed water-borne selenate (82.2 ± 0.93%) faster than selenite (58.9 ± 1.77%), with 86.0 ± 1.41% and 77.2 ± 1.00%, respectively, of the Se accumulated in the biomass and the rest volatilized. When supplied with excess nutrients, the Se accumulation and volatilization rates were significantly inhibited, with the removal efficiency dropping to 50.2 ± 2.59% and 7.37 ± 0.93% for selenite and selenate, respectively. When M. aeruginosa was tested with inadequate, appropriate, and adequate levels of sulfate, Se uptake decreased with increasing sulfate concentrations, particularly for selenate (from 34.1 to 4.81%). Using X-ray absorption near-edge structure to speciate biomass Se, selenite and selenate were transformed to organo-Se (87.3–100%), with or without nutrients present, suggesting M. aeruginosa could efficiently reduce Se oxyanions to more bioavailable forms. With increasing sulfate levels (5.0 and 10.0 mg S/L), percentages of SeMet converted from selenite decreased by 28.2–33.0%, with 19.1–33.2% as elemental Se, while organo-Se remained dominant (93.6–95.1%) in selenate-treated M. aeruginosa. Transmission electron microscopy shows structural damage in the cell wall at exposure to selenite (1600 μg Se/L), with the intracellular structure intact. To prevent Se biomagnification along aquatic food chains, the Se-laden biomass was combusted as a post-treatment, leading to a significant reduction in Se content (∼99.2%) and Se bioavailability, with inorganic Se (45.0–70.5%) predominant in the residue.

Original languageEnglish
Article number130593
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Oct

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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