Effect of Multi-walled Carbon Nanotubes on Metabolism and Morphology of Filamentous Green Microalgae

Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2017 Nov;73(4):649-658. doi: 10.1007/s00244-017-0429-2. Epub 2017 Jul 7.


Multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) have potential applications in the industrial, agricultural, pharmaceutical, medical, and environmental remediation fields. However, many uncertainties exist regarding the environmental implications of engineered nanomaterials. This study examined the effect of the MWCNTs on metabolic status and morphology of filamentous green microalgae Klebsormidium flaccidum. Appropriate concentrations of MWCNT (1, 50, and 100 μg mL-1) were added to a microalgal culture in the exponential growth phase and incubated for 24, 48, 72, and 96 h. Exposure to MWCNT led to reductions in algal growth after 48 h and decreased on cell viability for all experimental endpoints except for 1 µg mL-1 at 24 h and 100 µg mL-1 after 72 h. At 100 µg mL-1, MWCNTs induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and had an effect on intracellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) content depending on concentration and time. No photosynthetic activity variation was observed. Observations by scanning transmission electron microscopy showed cell damage. In conclusion, we have demonstrated that exposure to MWCNTs affects cell metabolism and microalgal cell morphology. To our best knowledge, this is the first case in which MWCNTs exhibit adverse effects on filamentous green microalgae K. flaccidum. These results contribute to elucidate the mechanism of MWCNT nanotoxicity in the bioindicator organism of terrestrial and freshwater habitats.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Microalgae / physiology*
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / toxicity*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Nanotubes, Carbon
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical