The uptake of Cd, Se(IV) and Zn by the freshwater alga Scenedesmus obliquus and the subsequent transfer and release budget in Daphnia magna were investigated under different nutrient additions and cell incubation conditions. An increase in ambient phosphate concentrations from 0.5 micromol l(-1) to 50 micromol l(-1) significantly increased the intracellular accumulation of Cd (by 18x) and Zn (by 5x), but decreased the accumulation of Se (by 126x) in the alga. The percentage of these metals distributing in the intracellular pool of algae also increased substantially with increasing ambient P concentrations. Nitrate addition from 5.0 to 200 micromol l(-1) did not influence the uptake of any of the three metals, although a significant decrease in the intracellular Se distribution was observed. Radiolabeled algae under different nutrient manipulations (semi-continuous culture, starvation, and P-pulse treatments) were used to measure trophic transfer assimilation efficiency (AE) in Daphnia. When the algal cells were grown in a semi-continuous culture, starved for N and P, or were treated with P-pulse, the AEs of Cd and Zn were generally independent of the nutritional conditions, but the Se AE was significantly affected by different P levels. The efflux rate constants, determined during 10 d depuration following 7 days of dietary uptake, decreased significantly for Cd and Zn, but were relatively constant for Se with increasing P concentration. N-addition caused no effect on the metal efflux rate constants. P- or N-additions did not influence the release budget (including molting, neonates, excretion and feces) for all three elements in Daphnia. Our study indicated that phosphate enrichment may substantially increase metal uptake in green alga S. obliquus. Responses of trophic transfer in Daphnia to nutrient enrichment were metal specific. P-enrichment can possibly lead to considerable decrease on Se transfer from algae to zooplankton.