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Toxic effects of nickel oxide (NiO) nanoparticles on the freshwater alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata

Sousa, Cátia A., Soares, Helena M.V.M., Soares, Eduardo V.
Aquatic toxicology 2018 v.204 pp. 80-90
Selenastrum capricornutum, adverse effects, algae, biochemical pathways, bleaching, ecosystems, electrons, environmental impact, enzyme activity, esterases, freshwater, growth retardation, mitosis, nanoparticles, nickel, nickel oxide, photosynthesis, physicochemical properties, pigments, plasma membrane, reactive oxygen species, toxicity
Over the last decade, concerns have been raised regarding the potential health and environmental effects associated with the release of metal oxide nanoparticles (NPs) into ecosystems. In the present work, the potential hazards of nickel oxide (NiO) NPs were investigated using the ecologically relevant freshwater alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata. NiO NP suspensions in algal OECD medium were characterized with regard to their physicochemical properties: agglomeration, surface charge, stability (dissolution of the NPs) and abiotic reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. NiO NPs formed loose agglomerates and released Ni2+. NiO NPs presented a 72 h-EC50 of 1.6 mg L−1, which was evaluated using the algal growth inhibition assay and allowed this NP to be classified as toxic. NiO NPs caused the loss of esterase activity (metabolic activity), the bleaching of photosynthetic pigments and the intracellular accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the absence of the disruption of plasma membrane integrity. NiO NPs also disturbed the photosynthetic process. A reduction in the photosynthetic efficiency (ΦPSII) accompanied by a decrease in the flow rate of electrons through the photosynthetic chain was also observed. The leakage of electrons from the photosynthetic chain may be the origin of the ROS found in the algal cells. The exposure to NiO NPs led to the arrest of the cell cycle prior to the first cell division (primary mitosis), an increase in cell volume and the presence of aberrant morphology in the algal cells. In this work, the use of different approaches allowed new clues related to the toxicity mechanisms of NiO NPs to be obtained. This work also contributes to the characterization of the environmental and toxicological hazards of NiO NPs and provides information on the possible adverse effects of these NPs on aquatic systems.