College of Resources and Environment, Department of Environment Science and Engineering, Southwest University, Chongqing, China; Chongqing Key Laboratory of Agricultural Resources and Environment, Chongqing, China; China Key Laboratory of the Three Gorges Reservoir Region's Eco-Environment, Ministry of Education, China. Electronic address: [Email]
Humic acid (HA) has a major influence on the environmental fate of metal ions due to its heterogeneity in chemical compositions, structure and functional groups. In this study, we investigated the effect of humic acid (HA) with different molecular weight (Mw) on the bioavailability of Pb for a representative algae-Chlorella pyrenoidosa. The results showed that HA with larger Mw had stronger inhibitory effects on the bioavailability of Pb to algae, and the biosorption capacity of Pb decreased with increasing Mw, which is in accordance with the variations of complexation capacities of Pb for HA fraction. In addition, we found that HA with Mw lower than 10 kDa could increase the biosorption capacity of Pb. The considerable differences among the Mw fractions on Pb biosorption were mainly attributed to their properties and corresponding complexation capacities. Phenolic groups were responsible for the variations of binding capacities among different Mw fractions, and it could also better explain the bioaccumulation of Pb to the membranes of algae. By using NICA-Donnan model, we found that over 60% of Pb ions were bound by HAs through specific binding, and the formation of Pb-HAs complex were non-bioavailable to algae, which was proved by the considerably decreasing percentage of internalized Pb. This study provided further insight into the bioavailability of Pb to algae as influenced by the complexation of HA with metal ion such as Pb.