Influence of cetyltrimethyl ammonium bromide on nutrient uptake and cell responses of Chlorella vulgaris

Zhijie Liang, Fei Ge*, Hui Zeng, Yin Xu, Fang Peng, Ming Hung WONG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


The removal of nutrients by algae is regarded as a vital process in wastewater treatment, however algal cell activity can be inhibited by some toxic chemicals during the biological process. This study investigated the uptake of ammonia nitrogen (NH4+) and total phosphorus (TP) by a green alga (Chlorella vulgaris) and algal cell responses under the stress of cetyltrimethyl ammonium bromide (CTAB), a representative for quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs, cationic surfactants). When the concentration of CTAB increased from 0 to 0.6mg/L, the uptake efficiencies of NH4+ and TP decreased from 88% to 18% and from 96% to 15%, respectively. Algal cell responses showed a decline in photosynthesis activity as indicated by the increase of chlorophyll autofluorescence from 2.9a.u. to 25.3a.u.; and a decrease of cell viability from 88% to 51%; and also a drop in esterase activity as indicated by the decrease in fluorescence of fluorescein diacetate stained cells from 71.5a.u. to 4.7a.u. Additionally, a transcription and translation response was confirmed by an enhancement of PO peak and amide II peak in algal cellular macromolecular composition stimulated by CTAB. The results suggest that QACs in wastewater may inhibit nutrient uptake by algae significantly through declining algal cell activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-87
Number of pages7
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2013

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

User-Defined Keywords

  • Algae
  • Cell response
  • Nutrient uptake
  • QACs
  • Stress


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