Sulfonamides-induced Oxidative Stress in Freshwater Microalga Chlorella Vulgaris: Evaluation of Growth, Photosynthesis, Antioxidants, Ultrastructure, and Nucleic Acids

Sci Rep. 2020 May 19;10(1):8243. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-65219-2.


Sulfadiazine (SD), sulfamerazine (SM1), and sulfamethazine (SM2) are widely used and disorderly discharged into surface water, causing contamination of lakes and rivers. However, microalgae are regard as a potential resource to alleviate and degrade antibiotic pollution. The physiological changes of Chlorella vulgaris in the presence of three sulfonamides (SAs) with varying numbers of -CH3 groups and its SA-removal efficiency were investigated following a 7-day exposure experiment. Our results showed that the growth inhibitory effect of SD (7.9-22.6%), SM1 (7.2-45.9%), and SM2 (10.3-44%) resulted in increased proteins and decreased soluble sugars. Oxidative stress caused an increase in superoxide dismutase and glutathione reductase levels but decreased catalase level. The antioxidant responses were insufficient to cope-up with reactive oxygen species (hydrogen peroxide and superoxide anion) levels and prevent oxidative damage (malondialdehyde level). The ultrastructure and DNA of SA-treated algal cells were affected, as evident from the considerable changes in the cell wall, chloroplast, and mitochondrion, and DNA migration. C. vulgaris-mediated was able to remove up to 29% of SD, 16% of SM1, and 15% of SM2. Our results suggest that certain concentrations of specific antibiotics may induce algal growth, and algal-mediated biodegradation process can accelerate the removal of antibiotic contamination.