Impact of silver nanoparticles on marine diatom Skeletonema costatum

Jun HUANG, Jinping CHENG, Jun YI

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


When silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are used commercially at a large scale, they infiltrate the environment at a rapid pace. However, the impact of large quantities of AgNPs on aquatic ecosystems is still largely unknown. In aquatic ecosystems, the phytoplanktons have a vital ecological function and, therefore, the potential impact of AgNPs on the microalgae community has elicited substantial concern. Therefore, in this study, the impacts of AgNPs on a marine diatom, the Skeletonema costatum, are investigated, with a focus on their photosynthesis and associated mechanisms. Exposure to AgNPs at a concentration of 0.5 mg l⁻¹ significantly induces excess intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS, 122%) and reduces 28% of their cell viability. More importantly, exposure to AgNPs reduces the algal chlorophyll-a content. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was conducted, which revealed that AgNPs obstruct the light absorption of algae because they adhere to their surface. The maximum photochemical efficiency of photosystem II (Fv/Fm) demonstrates that exposure to AgNPs significantly inhibits the conversion of light energy into photosynthetic electron transport. Moreover, the genes of the photosystem II reaction center protein (D1) are significantly down-regulated (P < 0.05) upon exposure to 5 mg l⁻¹ AgNPs. These results suggest that the physical adhesion and effects of shading of AgNPs on algae might affect their light energy delivery system and damage the crucial protein function of PSII. The photosynthesis inhibition effect of AgNPs is largely different from Ag⁺. This study shows that AgNPs at higher concentrations might have serious consequences for the succession of the phytoplankton communities and aquatic ecosystem equilibrium. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1343-1354
JournalJournal of Applied Toxicology
Issue number10
Early online date15 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


Huang, J., Cheng, J., & Yi, J. (2016). Impact of silver nanoparticles on marine diatom Skeletonema costatum. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 36(10), 1343-1354. doi: 10.1002/jat.3325


  • Silver nanoparticles
  • Marine microalgae
  • Photosynthesis
  • Chlorophyll-a
  • Oxidative damage
  • Cell viability
  • Silver ion
  • Nanotoxicity


Dive into the research topics of 'Impact of silver nanoparticles on marine diatom Skeletonema costatum'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.