Cellular Response of Adapted and Non-Adapted Tetrahymena thermophila Strains to Europium Eu(III) Compounds

Biology (Basel). 2024 Apr 23;13(5):285. doi: 10.3390/biology13050285.


Europium is one of the most reactive lanthanides and humans use it in many different applications, but we still know little about its potential toxicity and cellular response to its exposure. Two strains of the eukaryotic microorganism model Tetrahymena thermophila were adapted to high concentrations of two Eu(III) compounds (EuCl3 or Eu2O3) and compared to a control strain and cultures treated with both compounds. In this ciliate, EuCl3 is more toxic than Eu2O3. LC50 values show that this microorganism is more resistant to these Eu(III) compounds than other microorganisms. Oxidative stress originated mainly by Eu2O3 is minimized by overexpression of genes encoding important antioxidant enzymes. The overexpression of metallothionein genes under treatment with Eu(III) compounds supports the possibility that this lanthanide may interact with the -SH groups of the cysteine residues from metallothioneins and/or displace essential cations of these proteins during their homeostatic function. Both lipid metabolism (lipid droplets fusing with europium-containing vacuoles) and autophagy are involved in the cellular response to europium stress. Bioaccumulation, together with a possible biomineralization to europium phosphate, seems to be the main mechanism of Eu(III) detoxification in these cells.

Keywords: Tetrahymena thermophila; bioaccumulation; europium; gene expression; lipid metabolism; oxidative stress.

Grants and funding

The Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, grant number CGL2016-75494-R awarded to J.C.G., funded this research.