Ameliorating effects of extracellular polymeric substances excreted by Thalassiosira pseudonana on algal toxicity of CdSe quantum dots. Academic Article uri icon


  • Quantum dots (QDs) are engineered nanoparticles (ENs) that have found increasing applications and shown great potential in drug delivery, biological imaging and industrial products. Knowledge of their stability, fate and transport in the aquatic environment is still lacking, including details of how these nanomaterials interact with marine phytoplankton. Here, we examined the toxicity of functionalized CdSe/ZnS QDs (amine- and carboxyl-) by exposing them for five days to Thalassiosira pseudonana (marine diatom) grown under different nutrient-conditions (enriched versus nitrogen-limited media). The released polysaccharides and proteins, the major components of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), were measured to assess their potential effects on the interactions between QDs and T. pseudonana. The partitioning of QDs was analyzed by monitoring the concentration of Cd in different size fractions of the cultures (i.e., filtrate, <0.22 m and permeate, <3 kDa). We found that the Cd release of QDs in the T. pseudonana culture was dependent on the nutrient conditions and nature of QDs' surface coating. Both amine- and carboxyl-functionalized QDs exhibited higher rates of Cd release in N-limited cultures than in nutrient enriched cultures. The results also showed that amine-functionalized QDs aggregate with minimal Cd release, independent of nutrient conditions. Laser scanning confocal microscopy images confirmed that aggregates are composed of QDs and the culture matrix (EPS). In addition, both types of QDs showed limited toxicity to T. pseudonana. The increasing production of proteins induced by QDs suggests that extracellular proteins might be involved in the detoxification of QDs to T. pseudonana via the Cd release of QDs. Our results here demonstrated that EPS can play an ameliorating role in QD toxicity, fate and transport in the aquatic environment.

published proceedings

  • Aquat Toxicol

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhang, S., Jiang, Y., Chen, C., Creeley, D., Schwehr, K. A., Quigg, A., Chin, W., & Santschi, P. H.

citation count

  • 57

complete list of authors

  • Zhang, Saijin||Jiang, Yuelu||Chen, Chi-Shuo||Creeley, Danielle||Schwehr, Kathleen A||Quigg, Antonietta||Chin, Wei-Chun||Santschi, Peter H

publication date

  • January 2013