Toxicity effects of disinfection byproduct chloroacetic acid to Microcystis aeruginosa: Cytotoxicity and mechanisms

J Environ Sci (China). 2023 Jul;129:229-239. doi: 10.1016/j.jes.2022.09.023. Epub 2022 Sep 27.


Chlorine-based disinfectants are widely used for disinfection in wastewater treatment. The mechanism of the effects of chlorinated disinfection by-products on cyanobacteria was unclear. Herein, the physiological effects of chloroacetic acid (CAA) on Microcystis aeruginosa (M. aeruginosa), including acute toxicity, oxidative stress, apoptosis, production of microcystin-LR (MC-LR), and the microcystin transportation-related gene mcyH transcript abundance have been investigated. CAA exposure resulted in a significant change in the cell ultrastructure, including thylakoid damage, disappearance of nucleoid, production of gas vacuoles, increase in starch granule, accumulation of lipid droplets, and disruption of cytoplasm membranes. Meanwhile, the apoptosis rate of M. aeruginosa increased with CAA concentration. The production of MC-LR was affected by CAA, and the transcript abundance of mcyH decreased. Our results suggested that CAA poses acute toxicity to M. aeruginosa, and it could cause oxidative damage, stimulate MC-LR production, and damage cell ultrastructure. This study may provide information about the minimum concentration of CAA in the water environment, which is safe for aquatic organisms, especially during the global coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic period.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Disinfection by-products; Microcystin; Oxidative damage; Ultrastructure characteristics.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Cyanobacteria*
  • Disinfection
  • Humans
  • Microcystins / toxicity
  • Microcystis* / metabolism


  • chloroacetic acid
  • Microcystins