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Reduced graphene oxide induces cytotoxicity and inhibits photosynthetic performance of the green alga Scenedesmus obliquus

Du, Shaoting, Zhang, Peng, Zhang, Ranran, Lu, Qi, Liu, Lin, Bao, Xiaowei, Liu, Huijun
Chemosphere 2016 v.164 pp. 499-507
Scenedesmus obliquus, antioxidant activity, cell walls, chlorophyll, chromatin, coatings, cytotoxicity, fluorescence, graphene, graphene oxide, inhibitory concentration 50, malondialdehyde, microalgae, models, oxidative stress, peroxidase, photosystem II, phytotoxicity, reactive oxygen species, starch granules, superoxide dismutase
Increased use of graphene materials might ultimately lead to their release into the environment. However, only a few studies have investigated the impact of graphene-based materials on green plants. In this study, the impact of reduced graphene oxide (RGO) on the microalgae Scenedesmus obliquus was evaluated to determine its phytotoxicity. Treatment with RGO suppressed the growth of the microalgae. The 72-h IC50 values of RGO evaluated using the logistic and Gompertz models were 148 and 151 mg L−1, respectively. RGO significantly inhibited Chl a and Chl a/b levels in the algal cells. Chlorophyll a fluorescence analysis showed that RGO significantly down-regulated photosystem II activity. The mechanism of how RGO inhibited algal growth and photosynthetic performance was determined by analyzing the alterations in ultrastructural morphology. RGO adhered to the algal cell surface as a semitranslucent coating. Cell wall damage and membrane integrity loss occurred in the treated cells. Moreover, nuclear chromatin clumping and starch grain number increase were noted. These changes might be attributed to the increase in malondialdehyde and reactive oxygen species levels, which might have exceeded the scavenging ability of antioxidant enzymes (including peroxidase and superoxide dismutase). RGO impaired the extra- and intra-cellular morphology and increased oxidative stress and thus inhibited algal growth and photosynthesis.