Use of bioreporters and deletion mutants reveals ionic silver and ROS to be equally important in silver nanotoxicity

Nimisha Joshi*, Bryne T Ngwenya, Ian B Butler, Chris E French

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The mechanism of antibacterial action of silver nanoparticles (AgNp) was investigated by employing a combination of microbiology and geochemical approaches to contribute to the realistic assessment of nanotoxicity. Our studies showed that suspending AgNp in media with different levels of chloride relevant to environmental conditions produced low levels of ionic silver thereby suggesting that dissolution of silver ions from nanoparticulate surface could not be the sole mechanism of toxicity. An Escherichia coli based bioreporter strain responsive to silver ions together with mutant strains of E. coli lacking specific protective systems were tested against AgNp. Deletion mutants lacking silver ion efflux systems and resistance mechanisms against oxidative stress showed an increased sensitivity to AgNp. However, the bioreporter did not respond to silver nanoparticles. Our results suggest that oxidative stress is a major toxicity mechanism and that this is at least partially associated with ionic silver, but that bulk dissolution of silver into the medium is not sufficient to account for the observed effects. Chloride ions do not appear to offer significant protection, indicating that chloride in receiving waters will not necessarily protect environmental bacteria from the toxic effects of nanoparticles in effluents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-58
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Biosensor
  • Environment
  • Ionic
  • Mechanism
  • Nanomaterials
  • Nanotoxicity
  • Oxidative stress
  • Speciation


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