Are Accumulated Sulfide-Bound Metals Metabolically Available in the Benthic Oligochaete <i>Tubifex tubifex</i>?

The present study evaluates the relationship between metal-binding sediment characteristics like acid volatile sulfides (AVS), metal accumulation, and internal metal distribution in the benthic oligochaete <i>Tubifex tubifex</i> and relates this accumulation to the induction of metallothionein-like proteins (MTLPs). In total, 15 Flemish lowland rivers were sampled. Cd, Cu, Zn, Pb, Ni, As, Cr, Co, and Ag concentrations were measured in environmental fractions (water and sediment) and worm tissue (both total and subcellular fractions). Furthermore, total cytosolic MTLP concentrations were measured in the worm tissue. Our results showed that Cd, Pb, Ni, and Cr were mainly stored as biological detoxified metal (BDM) while Cu, Zn, As, and Ag were mostly available in the metal sensitive fraction (MSF). A remarkable difference in the subcellular distribution of accumulated Cd, Ni, and Co between anoxic (SEM<sub>Me</sub> − AVS < 0; mostly stored as BDM) and oxic (SEM<sub>Me</sub> − AVS > 0; mostly stored in the MSF) sediments was noticed. Moreover, a rapid increase in MTLP induction was found when SEM<sub>Tot</sub> − AVS > 0. Our results indicate that the accumulated sulfide-bound metals were detoxified and little available to the metabolism of <i>T. tubifex</i> under anoxic conditions.