Increased removal of cadmium by Chlamydomonas reinhardtii modified with a synthetic gene for γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase

Bioremediation with genetically modified microalgae is becoming an alternative to remove metalloids and metals such as cadmium, a contaminant produced in industrial processes and found in domestic waste. Its removal is important in several countries including Mexico, where the San Luis Potosi region has elevated levels of it. We generated a construct with a synthetic gene for γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase and employed it in the chloroplast transformation of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. In dose-response kinetics with media containing from 1 to 20 mg/L of cadmium, both the transplastomic clone and the wild-type strain grew similarly, but the former removed up to 32% more cadmium. While the growth of both decreased with higher concentrations of cadmium, the transplastomic clone removed 20 ± 9% more than the wild-type strain. Compared to the wild-type strain, in the transplastomic clone the activity of glutathione S-transferase and the intracellular glutathione increased up to 2.1 and 1.9 times, respectively, in media with 2.5 and 10 mg/mL of cadmium. While 20 mg/L of cadmium inhibited the growth of both, the transplastomic clone gradually duplicated. These results confirm the expression of the synthetic gene gshA in the transformed strain as revealed in its increased removal uptake and metabolic response.