MEPS 176:139-151 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps176139

Sedimentary metal bioavailability determined by the digestive constraints of marine deposit feeders: gut retention time and dissolved amino acids

Zhen Chen, Lawrence M. Mayer*

Darling Marine Center, University of Maine, Walpole, Maine 04573, USA

ABSTRACT: Contaminant metals bound to sediments are subject to considerable solubilization during passage of the sediments through the digestive systems of deposit feeders. We examined the kinetics of this process, using digestive fluids extracted from deposit feeders Arenicola marina and Parastichopus californicus and then incubated with contaminated sediments. Kinetics are complex, with solubilization followed occasionally by readsorption onto the sediment. In general, solubilization kinetics are biphasic, with an initial rapid step followed by a slower reaction. For many sediment-organism combinations, the reaction will not reach a steady state or equilibrium within the gut retention time (GRT) of the organisms, suggesting that metal bioavailability in sediments is a time-dependent parameter. Experiments with commercial protein solutions mimic the kinetic patterns observed with digestive fluids, which corroborates our previous study that complexation by dissolved amino acids (AA) in digestive fluids leads to metal solubilization (Chen & Mayer 1998b; Environ Sci Technol 32:770-778). The relative importance of the fast and slow reactions appears to depend on the ratio of ligands in gut fluids to the amount of bound metal in sediments. High ligand to solid metal ratios result in more metals released in fast reactions and thus higher lability of sedimentary metals. Multiple extractions of a sediment with digestive fluid of A. marina confirm the potential importance of incomplete reactions within a single deposit-feeding event, and make clear that bioavailability to a single animal is likely different from that to a community of organisms. The complex kinetic patterns lead to the counterintuitive prediction that toxification of digestive enzymes by solubilized metals will occur more readily in species that dissolve less metals.

KEY WORDS: Bioavailability · Sedimentary metals · Deposit feeders · Digestive fluid · Solubilization kinetics · Gut retention time · Dissolved amino acids

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