Seasonal trends of mercury bioaccumulation and assessment of toxic effects in Asian clams and microbial community from field study of estuarine sediment

Dhiraj Kumar Chaudhary, Hwansuk Kim, Danny Reible, Mikyung Lee, Sunyoung Kim, Lan Hee Kim, Sungpyo Kim, Yongseok Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigated seasonal trends in bioaccumulation potential and toxic effects of mercury (Hg) in Asian clams (Corbicula fluminea) and microbial community. For this, a clam-exposure experiment was performed during summer, fall, and winter seasons in four different sites (HS1: control/clean site; HS2, HS3, and HS4: contaminated sites) of Hyeongsan River estuary, South Korea. Total mercury (THg) and methylmercury (MeHg) in whole sediments were highest at HS4 site during fall, sustained similar levels during winter, but decreased during summer. Unlike whole sediment, pore water reported higher levels in summer, and gradually declined during fall and winter. Asian clams from HS4 site collected during summer presented highest bioaccumulations of THg (521.52 μg/kg, dry weight) and MeHg (161.04 μg/kg, dry weight), which also correlated with the higher levels of Hg present in pore water in the same season. Moreover, biota-sediment-pore water accumulation factor (BSpAF) were comparatively greater in clams collected from HS2∼HS4 compared to HS1 sites, suggesting that porewater was a better indicator of accumulation of Hg. Upregulation of biomarker genes responsible for detoxifying process (gsts1), scavenging oxidative stress (cat), and protein reparation (hsp70 and hsp90) were observed in clams collected from HS2∼HS4. The overexpression of these biomarkers implied that Asian clams can be considered as promising warning tools for Hg-contamination. Both bacterial and metabolic diversities were negatively affected by higher levels of THg and MeHg. Phylum Proteobacteria was enriched in HS2∼HS4 compared to HS1. In contrast, phylum Bacteroidetes showed a reverse trend. The metabolic profile was highest in HS1 and lowest in HS4, revealing higher stress of Hg in HS4 site. Overall, the outcomes of this field study broaden the information on seasonal trends of bioaccumulation of Hg and its toxic effects. These findings may be helpful in Hg monitoring and management programs in other river systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113439
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Benthic microbiota
  • Bioaccumulation factors
  • Biomarker genes
  • Corbicula fluminea
  • Mercury toxicity
  • Seasonal effects


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