Green Liver Systems® for Water Purification: Using the Phytoremediation Potential of Aquatic Macrophytes for the Removal of Different Cyanobacterial Toxins from Water


The protection and reasonable use of freshwater is one of the main goals for our future, as water is most important for all organisms on earth including humans. Due to pollution, not only with xenobiotics, but also with nutrients, the status of our water bodies has changed drastically. Excess nutrient load induces eutrophication processes and, as a result, massive cyanobacterial blooms during the summer times. As cyanobacteria are known to produce several toxic secondary metabolites, the so-called cyanotoxins, exhibiting hepato-, neuro- and cell-toxicity, a potential risk is given, when using this water. There is an urgent need to have a water purification system, which is able to cope with these natural toxins. Using aquatic plants as a Green Liver, the Green Liver System?, was developed, able to remove these natural pollutants. To test the ability of the Green Liver System?, several cyanobacterial toxins including artificial and natural mixtures were tested in a small-scale laboratory system. The results showed that within 7 - 14 days a combination of different aquatic macrophytes was able to remove a given toxin amount (10 μg·L-1) by 100%. The phytoremediation technology behind the Green Liver Systems? uses the simple ability of submerged aquatic plants to uptake, detoxify and store the toxins, without formation and release of further metabolites to the surrounding water.

Share and Cite:

Pflugmacher, S. , Kühn, S. , Lee, S. , Choi, J. , Baik, S. , Kwon, K. and Contardo-Jara, V. (2015) Green Liver Systems® for Water Purification: Using the Phytoremediation Potential of Aquatic Macrophytes for the Removal of Different Cyanobacterial Toxins from Water. American Journal of Plant Sciences, 6, 1607-1618. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2015.69161.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Gleick, P. (1993) Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources. Oxford University Press, New York.
[2] Sandermann, H. (1992) Plant Metabolism of Xenobiotics. Trends in Biochemical Sciences, 17, 82-84.
[3] Sandermann, H. (1994) Higher Plant Metabolism of Xenobiotics: The “Green Liver” Concept. Pharmacogenetics, 4, 225-241.
[4] Knight, R.L., Ruble, R.W., Kadlec, R.H. and Reed, S. (1993) Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment. Journal of Environmental Engineering, 138, 475-482.
[5] Schmidt, J.R., Wilhelm, S.W. and Boyer, G.L. (2014) The Fate of Microcystins in the Environment and Challenges for Monitoring. Toxins, 6, 3354-3387.
[6] Casper, S.J. and Krausch, H.D. (1980) Pteridophyta und Anthophyta 1. u. 2. Teil. In: Ettl, H., Gerloff, J. and Heynig, H., Eds., Süβwasserflora von Mitteleurope, Vol. 23 & 24, Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart, New York.
[7] Orchard, A.E. (1981) A Revision of South American Myriophyllum (Haloragaceae) and Its Repercussions on Some Australian and North American Species. Brunonia, 4, 27-65.
[8] Nimptsch, J. and Pflugmacher, S. (2005) Substrate Specificities of Cytosolic Glutathione S-Transferases in Five Different Species of the Aquatic Macrophyte Myriophyllum. Journal of Applied Botany and Food Quality, 79, 94-99.
[9] Romero-Oliva, C., Block, T., Contardo-Jara, V. and Pflugmacher, S. (2014) Accumulation of Microcystin Congeners in Different Aquatic Plants and Crops—A Case Study from Lake Amatitlán, Guatemala. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 102, 121-128.
[10] Rellan, S., Osswald, J., Vasconcelos, V. and Gago-Martinez, A. (2007) Analysis of Anatoxin-a in Biological Samples Using Liquid Chromatography with Fluorescence Detection after Solid Phase Extraction and Solid Phase Microextraction. Journal of Chromatography, 1156, 134-140.
[11] Falconer, I., Runnegar, M., Buckley, T., Huyn, V. and Bradshaw, P. (1989) Using Activated Carbon to Remove Toxicity From Drinking Water Containing Cyanobacterial Blooms. Journal of the American Water Works Association, 81, 102-105.
[12] Lambert, T.W., Holmes, C.F.B. and Hrudey, S.E. (1996) Adsorption of Microcystin-LR by Activated Carbon and Removal in Full Scale Water Treatment. Water Research, 30, 1411-1422.
[13] Nicholson, B.C., Rositano, J. and Burch, M.D. (1994) Destruction of Cyanobacterial Peptide Hepatotoxins by Chlorine and Chloramine. Water Research, 28, 1297-1303.
[14] Muntisov, M. and Trimboli, P. (1996) Removal of Algal Toxins Using Membrane Technology (Technical Note). Water, 23, 34.
[15] Rositano, J., Nicholson, B. and Pieronne, P. (1998) Destruction of Cyanobacterial Toxins by Ozone. Ozone: Science & Engineering, 20, 223-238.
[16] Pflugmacher, S. and Sandermann, H. (1998) Taxonomic Distribution of Plant Glucosyltransferases Acting on Xenobiotics. Phytochemistry, 49, 507-511.
[17] Nimptsch, J., Wiegand, C. and Pflugmacher, S. (2008) Cyanobacterial Toxin Elimination via Bioaccumulation of MC-LR in Aquatic Macrophytes: An Application of the “Green Liver Concept”. Environmental Science & Technology, 42, 8552-8557.
[18] Ensley, H.E., Barber, J.T., Polita, M.A. and Oliver, A.I. (1994) Toxicity and Metabolism of 2,4-Dichlorophenol by Aquatic Angiosperm Lemna gibba. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 13, 325-331.
[19] Hafez, N., Abdall, S. and Ramadan, Y.S. (1998) Accumulation of Phenol by Potamogeton crispus from Aqueous Industrial Waste. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 60, 944-948.
[20] Day, J.A. and Sauners, F.M. (2004) Glycoside Formation from Chlorophenols in Lemna minor. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 25, 613-620.
[21] Gobas, E.A.P.C., McNeil, E.J., Lovett-Doust, L. and Haffner, G.D. (1991) Bioconcentration of Chlorinated Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Aquatic Macrophytes. Environmental Science & Technology, 25, 924-929.
[22] Rice, P.J., Anderson, T.A. and Coast, J.R. (1997) Phytoremediation of Herbicide-Contaminated Surface Water with Aquatic Plants. In: Kruger, E.L., Anderson, T.A. and Coats, J.R., Eds., Phytoremediation of Soil and Water Contaminants, American Chemical Society, Washington DC, 133-151.
[23] Zhang, X., Hu, Y. and Chen, B. (2011) Arsenic Uptake, Accumulation and Phytofiltration by Duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza L.). Journal of Environmental Sciences, 23, 601-606.
[24] Zhang, X., Lin, A.J., Zhao, F.J., Xu, G.Z., Duan, G.L. and Zhu, Y.G. (2008) Arsenic Accumulation by the Aquatic Fern Azolla: Comparison of Arsenic Uptake, Speciation and Efflux by Azolla caroliniana and Azolla fliliculoides. Environmental Pollution, 156, 1149-1155.
[25] Rahman, M.A. and Hasegawa, H. (2011) Aquatic Arsenic: Phytoremediation Using Floating Macrophytes. Chemosphere, 83, 633-646.
[26] Roy, S. and Hanninen, O. (1994) Pentachlorophenol: Uptake/Elimination, Kinetics and Metabolism in an Aquatic Plant Eichhornia crassipes. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 13, 763-773.
[27] Xia, J., Wu, L. and Tao, Q. (2002) Phytoremediation of Methyl Parathion by Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes Solm.). Chemical Abstracts, 137, Article ID: 155879.
[28] Dhir, B., Sharmila, P. and Saradhi, P.P. (2009) Potential of Aquatic Macrophytes for Removing Contaminants from the Environment. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 39, 754-781.
[29] Best, E.P.H., Zappi, M.E., frederickson, H.L., Sprecher, S.L., Larson, S.L. and Ochman, M. (1997) Screening of Aquatic and Wetland Plant Species for Phytoremediation of Explosive-Contaminated Groundwater from Iowa Army Ammunition Plant. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 829, 179-194.
[30] Kondo, K., Kawabata, H., Ueda, S., Hasegawa, H., Inaba, J., Mitamura, O., Seike, Y. and Ohmomo, Y. (2003) Distribution of Aquatic Plants and Absorption of Radionuclides by Plants through the Leaf Surface in Brackish Lake Obuchi, Japan, Bordered by Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, 257, 305-312.
[31] Rai, U.N., Tripathi, R.D., Vajpayee, P., Pandey, N., Ali, M.B. and Gupta, D.K. (2003) Cadmium Accumulation and Its Phytotoxicity in Potamogeton pectinatus L. (Potamogetonaceae). Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 70, 566-575.
[32] Nzengung, V.A., Lee, N.W., Rennels, D.E., McCutcheon, S.C. and Wang, C. (1999) Use of Aquatic Plants and Algae for Decontamination of Water Polluted with Chlorinated Alkanes. International Journal of Phytoremediation, 1, 203-226.
[33] Hughes, J.B., Shanks, J.E., Vanderford, M.Y., Lauritzen, J. and Bhadra, R. (1997) Transformation of TNT by Aquatic Plants and Plant Tissues Cultures. Environmental Science & Technology, 31, 266-271.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.