Comparative toxicity of 20 herbicides to 5 periphytic algae and the relationship with mode of action

Environ Toxicol Chem. 2016 Feb;35(2):368-75. doi: 10.1002/etc.3150. Epub 2015 Dec 15.


The authors used 5 species of periphytic algae to conduct toxicity assays of 20 herbicides. The 5 tested species represent riverine primary producers most likely to be affected by herbicides. A fluorescence microplate toxicity assay was used as an efficient and economical high-throughput assay. Toxicity characteristics were analyzed, focusing on their relationship to herbicide mode of action. The relative differences between 50% and 10% effect concentrations depended on herbicide mode of action, rather than tested species. Moreover, a clear relationship between sensitive species and herbicide mode of action was also observed. Green alga was most sensitive to herbicides of 2 mode of action groups: inhibitors of protoporphyrinogen oxidase and very long-chain fatty acid synthesis. Diatoms were most sensitive to herbicides of 1 mode of action group: 4-hydroxyphenyl-pyruvate-dioxygenase inhibitors. Cyanobacterium was most sensitive to herbicides of 1 mode of action group: inhibitors of acetolactate synthase. The species sensitivity distribution based on obtained data was also analyzed. The slopes of the species sensitivity distribution significantly differed among modes of action, suggesting that difference in species sensitivity is specific to the mode of action. In particular, differences in species sensitivity were markedly large for inhibitors of acetolactate synthase, protoporphyrinogen oxidase, and very long-chain fatty acid synthesis. The results clearly showed that a single algal species cannot represent the sensitivity of an algal assemblage. Therefore, multispecies algal toxicity data are essential for substances with specific modes of action.

Keywords: Attached algae; In vivo fluorescence; Pesticide; Species sensitivity distribution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 4-Hydroxyphenylpyruvate Dioxygenase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Acetolactate Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Chlorophyta / drug effects*
  • Cyanobacteria / drug effects*
  • Diatoms / drug effects*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / toxicity
  • Fatty Acid Synthases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Fatty Acid Synthases / metabolism
  • Herbicides / analysis
  • Herbicides / chemistry
  • Herbicides / toxicity*
  • Japan
  • Protoporphyrinogen Oxidase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protoporphyrinogen Oxidase / metabolism
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Solubility
  • Species Specificity
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Herbicides
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • 4-Hydroxyphenylpyruvate Dioxygenase
  • Protoporphyrinogen Oxidase
  • Acetolactate Synthase
  • Fatty Acid Synthases