Interactions of nonylphenol (NP), a toxic and oestrogenic degradation product of widely used non-ionic surfactants, with the cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa were studied. Batch cultures were incubated for 10 days with NP concentrations between 10 and 570 nM. NP was removed more quickly in the presence of M. aeruginosa (half-life 2.7-5.2 days) than in its absence (half-life 6.7-10.2 days) at all concentrations tested. At the end of the experiment, NP could not be found in the biomass, so the biotic removal is due to uptake and chemical transformation, and not to physical binding on the cells. The observed effective concentrations, EC50 and EC20, were 0.45 and 0.25 M, respectively. Therefore, NP is expected to have toxic effects on M. aeruginosa only in very contaminated surface waters. However, for concentrations that go far beyond environmental levels, cyanobacteria are able to cope with NP toxicity by internalising the compound in a less toxic form. Therefore, the presence of cyanobacteria may increase the rate of NP removal from the aquatic environment.
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