Phenol is the major organic constituent of coal-conversion scrub water and is therfore a potential environmental contaminant. After Tetrahymena pyriformis strain GL-C, syngen 1 was exposed to phenol, its behavior, cytology, respiration, and growth rates were examined. Concentrations larger than or equal to 75 mg/liter alter cell motility, shape, and contractile vacuole activity. O2 uptake was abruptly reduced within 3 min of exposure to phenol in concentrations as low as 10 mg/liter. Concomitantly there was an increase in the electron density of the mitochondrial matrix. Recovery to normal rates of O2 consumption was paralleled by a return to normal matrix density. Alterations of mucocysts, pellicle, and glycogen were also observed. The length of lag phase growth curves increased generally in proportion to concentration of toxicant. Phenol, however, did not affect the rate of cell multiplication during the exponential growth phase. The potential use of this system to examine the effects of other possible organic pollutants is discussed.
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