The deposit-feeding oligochaete Limnodrilus hoffmeisteri possesses metallothionein-like proteins and metal-rich granules for storing and detoxifying cadmium (Cd). In this study we investigated the bioavailability of Cd sequestered within this oligochaete by conducting feeding experiments with 109Cd-labeled oligochaetes and the omnivorous grass shrimp Palaemonetes pugio. We also make predictions on Cd trophic transfer based on oligochaete subcellular Cd distributions and absorption efficiencies of Cd by shrimp Cytosol [including metallothionein-like proteins and other proteins) and a debris fraction (including metal-rich granules and tissue fragments) isolated from homogenized 109Cd-labeled oligochaetes were embedded in gelatin and fed to shrimp. The 109Cd absorption efficiencies of shrimp fed these subcellular fractions were 84.8 and 48.6%, respectively, and were significantly different (p < 0.001), indicating that 109Cd bound in these fractions was not equally available to a predator. Mass balance equations demonstrate that shrimp fed whole worms absorb 61.5% of the ingested 109Cd, an absorption efficiency similar to that obtained experimentally (57.1%). Furthermore, the majority of the absorbed 109Cd comes from the fraction containing metallothionein-like proteins (i.e. cytosol). 109Cd absorbed from the debris fraction probably comes from the digestion of tissue fragments, rather than metal-rich granules. The ecological significance of these findings is that prey detoxification mechanisms may mediate the bioreduction or bioaccumulation of toxic metals along fond chains by altering metal bioavailability. Another important finding is that trophic transfer of metal can be predicted based on the subcellular metal distribution of prey.
Additional publication details
Bioavailability of biologically sequestered cadmium and the implications of metal detoxification