Marine environmental research

Effect of silver nanoparticles on Mediterranean sea urchin embryonal development is species specific and depends on moment of first exposure.

PMID 26164225


With the ever growing use of nanoparticles in a broad range of industrial and consumer applications there is increasing likelihood that such nanoparticles will enter the aquatic environment and be transported through freshwater systems, eventually reaching estuarine or marine waters. Due to silver's known antimicrobial properties and widespread use of silver nanoparticles (AgNP), their environmental fate and impact is therefore of particular concern. In this context we have investigated the species-specific effects of low concentrations of 60 nm AgNP on embryonal development in Mediterranean sea urchins Arbacia lixula, Paracentrotus lividus and Sphaerechinus granularis. The sensitivity of urchin embryos was tested by exposing embryos to nanoparticle concentrations in the 1-100 μg L(-1) range, with times of exposure varying from 30 min to 24 h (1 h-48 h for S. granularis) post-fertilisation which corresponded with fertilized egg, 4 cell, blastula and gastrula development phases. The most sensitive species to AgNP was A. lixula with significant modulation of embryonal development at the lowest AgNP concentrations of 1-10 μg L(-1) with high numbers of malformed embryos or arrested development. The greatest impact on development was noted for those embryos first exposed to nanoparticles at 6 and 24 h post fertilisation. For P. lividus, similar effects were noted at higher concentrations of 50 μg L(-1) and 100 μg L(-1) for all times of first exposure. The S. granularis embryos indicated a moderate AgNP impact, and significant developmental abnormalities were recorded in the concentration range of 10-50 μg L(-1). As later post-fertilisation exposure times to AgNP caused greater developmental changes in spite of a shorter total exposure time led us to postulate on additional mechanisms of AgNP toxicity. The results herein indicate that toxic effects of AgNP are species-specific. The moment at which embryos first encounter AgNP is also shown to be an important factor in the development of abnormalities, and future applications of the sea urchin embryo development test for nanoparticle toxicity testing should carefully address the specific phase of development of embryos when nanoparticles are first introduced.