In the Baltic Sea, high concentrations of toxic brominated aromatic compounds have been detected in all compartments of the marine food web. A growing body of evidence points towards filamentous algae as a natural producer of these chemicals. However, little is known about the effects of environmental factors and life history on algal production of brominated compounds. In this study, several congeners of methoxylated polybrominated diphenyl ethers (MeO-PBDEs), hydroxylated polybrominated diphenyl ethers (OH-PBDEs) and brominated phenols (BPs) were identified in a naturally growing filamentous red algal species (Ceramium tenuicorne) in the Baltic Sea. The identified substances displayed large seasonal variations in the alga with a concentration peak in July. Production of MeO-/OH-PBDEs and BPs by C. tenuicorne was also established in isolated clonal material grown in a controlled laboratory setting. Based on three replicates, herbivory, as well as elevated levels of light and salinity in the culture medium, significantly increased the production of 2,4,6-tribromophenol (2,4,6-TBP). Investigation of differences in production between the isomorphic female, male and diploid clonal life stages of the alga grown in the laboratory revealed a significantly higher production of 2,4,6-TBP in the brackish water female gametophytes, compared to the corresponding marine gametophytes. Even higher concentrations of 2,4,6-TBP were produced by marine male gametophytes and sporophytes.
Keywords: Bromophenols; Chemical pollutant; Natural production; Seasonal variations; Secondary metabolites; Stress-induced production.