Effects of TiO2 nanoparticles on the growth and metabolism of three species of freshwater algae

Bradley J. Cardinale, Raven Bier, Courtney Kwan

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We examined how TiO2 nanoparticles (nTiO2) impact the growth and metabolism of three species of freshwater green algae (Scenedesmus quadricauda, Chlamydomonas moewusii, and Chlorella vulgaris) that are widespread throughout North America. We exposed laboratory cultures to five initial concentrations of nTiO2 (0, 50, 100, 200, and 300 ppm) and measured impacts on species population growth rates, as well as on metabolic rates of gross primary production (GPP) and respiration (R). Population growth rates were consistently reduced by nTiO2, with reduction ranging from 11 to 27 % depending on the species. But the mechanisms of reduction differed among species. For Chlamydomonas, nTiO2 reduced both GPP and R, but effects on GPP were stronger. As a consequence, carbon was respired more quickly than it was fixed, leading to reduced growth. In contrast, nTiO2 stimulated both GPP and R in Chorella. But because R was stimulated to a greater extent than GPP, carbon loss again exceeded fixation, leading to reduced growth. For Scenedesmus, nTiO2 had no significant impact on R, but reduced GPP. This pattern also caused carbon loss to exceed fixation. Results suggest that nTiO2 may generally suppress the growth of pelagic algae, but these impacts are manifest through contrasting effects on species-specific metabolic functions. Because growth and metabolism of algae are fundamental to the functioning of ecosystems and the structure of aquatic food-webs, our study suggests nTiO2 has potential to alter important community and ecosystem properties of freshwater habitats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number913
JournalJournal of Nanoparticle Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • General Chemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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