Experimental assessment of the bioconcentration of (15)N-tamoxifen in Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata

Chemosphere. 2015 Mar;122:251-256. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.11.070. Epub 2014 Dec 15.


Nowadays, pharmaceutical compounds (PC) are ubiquitous in aquatic ecosystems. In addition to direct ecotoxicity, the bioconcentration of PC in organisms is a phenomenon which could have an impact on the whole ecosystem. In order to study this phenomenon, we exposed unicellular algae (Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata) to (15)N-tamoxifen, an anticancer drug labelled with a stable nitrogen isotope used as a tracer. By measuring (15)N enrichment over time, we were able to measure the increase of tamoxifen content in algae. This enrichment was measured by an elemental analyser coupled with an isotopic ratio mass spectrometer (EA-IRMS). Algal cells were exposed for 7d to 3 concentrations of tamoxifen: 1, 10 and 100μgL(-1). Our result shows a high bioconcentration in algae from the first minutes of contact. The highest bioconcentration factor measured is around 26500. We also observe that bioconcentration is not linked to the exposure concentration. This study is the first to use stable isotopes in order to monitor PCs in aquatic organisms such as algae. The use of stable isotopes in ecotoxicology offers interesting perspectives in the field of contaminant transfer in organisms and along the trophic web.

Keywords: Bioconcentration; Labelled pharmaceuticals; Pharmaceuticals compounds (PCs); Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata; Stable isotopes.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Chlorophyta / chemistry
  • Chlorophyta / drug effects
  • Chlorophyta / metabolism*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ecotoxicology*
  • Environmental Pollutants / chemistry
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Food Chain
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kinetics
  • Nitrogen Isotopes / chemistry
  • Tamoxifen / chemistry
  • Tamoxifen / metabolism*
  • Tamoxifen / toxicity


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Tamoxifen