Silicon (Si) has a marked affinity for aluminium (Al(III)), but not other trace metals such as cadmium (Cd(II)) and zinc (Zn(II)). Exogenous orthosilicic acid (Si(OH)4) ameliorates the toxicity of Al(III) to the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis, but its mechanism of action is unclear. Here, studies were conducted to ascertain whether interaction between orthosilicic acid and Al(III) occurs in the water column to prevent Al(III) uptake, or in the tissues to reduce the toxicity of accumulated metal. Silicon did not reduce the accumulation of Al(III) by the digestive gland (the main 'sink' for trace metals in L. stagnalis) following exposure of the snail for 30 days to 500 μgl-1 added Al(III) and 13-fold molar excess of orthosilicic acid. However, Si concentrations correlated well with Al(III) levels in the digestive gland (R2=0.77), giving a ratio of 2.5:1 (Al(III):Si). Exposure to Zn(II) or Cd(II) and 13-fold molar excess of orthosilicic acid did not prevent uptake of these metals, or result in a correlation between metal and Si concentrations of the snail digestive gland. These data show that aquated orthosilicic acid does not prevent Al(III) accumulation by L. stagnalis. However, following exposure, the ratio of Al(III) to Si in the digestive gland is suggestive of the early formation of hydroxyaluminosilicates, probably proto-imogolites (2-3:1 Al(III):Si). Whether hydroxyaluminates are formed ex vivo in the water column and taken up by snails into the digestive gland, or formed in situ within the digestive gland remains to be established. Either way, orthosilicic acid clearly prevents the in vivo toxicity of Al(III) rather than reducing its uptake. Silicon appears to have an important role in the handling Al(III) by the pond snail which may also have wider relevance in understanding the role of Si in ameliorating Al(III) toxicity. © 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
- Lymnaea stagnalis