Comparative dissolution, uptake, and toxicity of zinc oxide particles in individual aquatic species and mixed populations

Environ Toxicol Chem. 2019 Mar;38(3):591-602. doi: 10.1002/etc.4349. Epub 2019 Feb 18.


Potential differences in species susceptibility to nanoparticle (NP) contaminants make the use of multispecies community toxicity testing strategies beneficial in understanding NP risk to aquatic environments. Because of the limited knowledge of zinc oxide (ZnO) NP fate and toxicity, we conducted multispecies exposures and compared the responses of individual species to the same species in a community comprised of algae (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii), bacteria (Escherichia coli), crustaceans (Daphnia magna), and zebrafish (Danio rerio). Different-sized ZnO particles and ionic Zn were compared to investigate the contribution of particulate and dissolved Zn to aquatic organism toxicity. Each organism and community was exposed to Zn sources at 0.08, 0.8, and 8 mg Zn/L. The present results indicate that all 3 types of Zn elicited differential toxicity among test organisms, with stronger adverse outcomes observed in single species than within a community. The community assay (nanocosm) we developed increased resilience to all Zn exposures by 5 to 10% compared to individual exposures at equivalent concentrations. In addition, the uptake and toxicity of ZnO particles to aquatic communities appear to be driven by rapid dissolution and the concomitant impacts of zinc ion toxicity, and the size of the ZnO particles had little impact on uptake or toxicity. The nanocosm assay could be a useful screening tool for rapidly assessing the potential impacts of nanomaterials to aquatic species. Environ Toxicol Chem 2019;38:591-602. © 2019 The Authors. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of SETAC.

Keywords: Algae; Aquatic toxicity; Daphnia; Microcosm; Nanoparticle; Zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii / drug effects
  • Daphnia / drug effects
  • Daphnia / metabolism
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Metal Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Particle Size
  • Solubility
  • Toxicity Tests
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*
  • Zebrafish / metabolism
  • Zinc Oxide / chemistry
  • Zinc Oxide / metabolism
  • Zinc Oxide / toxicity*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Zinc Oxide