Comparative toxicity of copper nanoparticles across three Lemnaceae species

Sci Total Environ. 2015 Jun 15;518-519:217-24. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.02.079. Epub 2015 Mar 10.


Metallic nanoparticles can end up in aquatic ecosystems due to their widespread application. Even though the toxicological effects of metallic nanoparticles to a diversity of species have been reported extensively, the toxicological data achieved in different studies are not always comparable and little is known regarding the comparative toxicity of nanoparticles across species, as different test strategies and endpoints were applied. To attempt to fill this knowledge gap, Spirodela polyrhiza, Lemna minor and Wolffia arrhiza were exposed to 25 nm spherical copper nanoparticles to investigate the inhibiting effect of copper nanoparticle suspensions across species at three endpoints: total frond area, frond number and dry weight based relative growth rate. The total frond area based relative growth rate was found to be the most sensitive endpoint, with an EC50 of 1.15±0.09 mg/L for S. polyrhiza, 0.84±0.12 mg/L for L. minor and 0.64±0.05 mg/L for W. arrhiza. Both the particles and the copper ions contributed to the inhibiting effects of copper nanoparticle suspensions at all endpoints studied. Dose-response related inhibiting effects caused by the copper ions were found at all endpoints studied, whereas the particles only showed dose-response related inhibiting effects on the total frond area based relative growth rate. This suggests that different physiological processes are involved in case of exposure to particles and copper ions. W. arrhiza was found to be the most sensitive species tested and S. polyrhiza was the least sensitive species tested, when the inhibiting effect was evaluated based on the relative growth rate calculated from total frond area. These findings exemplify the importance of identifying the suitable endpoints of toxicity assessment and considering the intrinsic differences between species when evaluating the toxicological profile of metallic nanoparticles across species.

Keywords: Acute toxicity; Copper nanoparticles; Lemnaceae species; Nanoecotoxicology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Araceae / drug effects*
  • Copper / toxicity*
  • Metal Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Toxicity Tests*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Copper