Effects of glufosinate on antioxidant enzymes, subcellular structure, and gene expression in the unicellular green alga Chlorella vulgaris
Review articleOpen access

AbstractGreater exposure to herbicide increases the likelihood of harmful effects in humans and the environment. Glufosinate, a non-selective herbicide, inhibits glutamine synthetase (GS) and thus blocks ammonium assimilation in plants. In the present study, the aquatic unicellular alga Chlorella vulgaris was chosen to assess the effects of acute glufosinate toxicity. We observed physiological changes during 12–96 h of exposure, and gene transcription during 6–48 h of exposure. Exposure to glufosinate increased malondialdehyde content by up to 2.73 times compared with the control, suggesting that there was some oxidative damage. Electron microscopy also showed that there were some chloroplast abnormalities in response to glufosinate. The activities of the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD), peroxidase (POD), and catalase (CAT) also increased markedly in the presence of glufosinate. Maximum activities of SOD, POD, and CAT were 2.90, 2.91, and 2.48 times that of the control, respectively. These elevated activities may help alleviate oxidative damage. A real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay showed changes in transcript abundances of three photosynthetic genes, psaB, psbC, and rbcL. The results showed that glufosinate reduced the transcript abundances of the three genes after 12 h exposure. The lowest abundances of psaB, psbC and rbcL transcripts in response to glufosinate exposure were 38%, 16% and 43% of those of the control, respectively. Our results demonstrate that glufosinate affects the activities of antioxidant enzymes, disrupts chloroplast ultrastructure, and reduces transcription of photosynthesis-related genes in C. vulgaris.

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