Mercury-Induced Oxidative Stress Response in Benthic Foraminifera: An In Vivo Experiment on Amphistegina lessonii

Caterina Ciacci, Michele Betti, Sigal Abramovich, Marco Cavaliere, Fabrizio Frontalini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The evaluation of the effects of pollution (e.g., Hg pollution) is a difficult task and relies mostly on biomonitoring based on bioindicators. The application of biomarkers may represent a complementary or alternative approach in environmental biomonitoring. Mercury is known to pose a significant health hazard due to its ability to cross cellular membranes, bioaccumulate, and biomagnify. In the present research, the effects of short-term (i.e., 24 h) Hg exposure in the symbiont-bearing benthic foraminiferal species Amphistegina lessonii are evaluated using several biomarkers (i.e., proteins and enzymes). Mercury leads to significant changes in the biochemistry of cells. Its effects are mainly associated with oxidative stress (i.e., production of reactive oxygen species: ROS), depletion of glutathione (GSH), and alteration of protein synthesis. Specifically, our findings reveal that exposure to Hg leads to the consumption of GSH by GPx and GST for the scavenging of ROS and the activation of antioxidant-related enzymes, including SOD and GSH-enzymes (GST, GSR, GPx, and Se-GPx), that are directly related to a defense mechanism against ROS. The Hg exposure also activates the MAPK (e.g., p-p38) and HSP (e.g., HSP 70) pathways. The observed biochemical alterations associated with Hg exposure may represent effective and reliable proxies (i.e., biomarkers) for the evaluation of stress in A. lessonii and lead to a possible application for the detection of early warning signs of environmental stress in biomonitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Article number960
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2022


  • benthic foraminifera
  • heavy metals
  • oxidative stress
  • protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology (all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)


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