Wiecinski, P., Metz, K.M., King Heiden, T.C., Louis, K., Mangham, A., Hamers, R.J., Heideman, W., Peterson, R.E., and Pedersen, J.A. (2013) Toxicity of Oxidatively Degraded Quantum Dots. Environmental science & technology. 47(16):9132-9.
Once released into the environment, engineered nanoparticles (eNPs) are subjected to processes that may alter their physical or chemical properties, potentially altering their toxicity vis-à-vis the as-synthesized materials. We examined the toxicity to zebrafish embryos of CdSecore/ZnSshell quantum dots (QDs) before and after exposure to an in vitro chemical model designed to simulate oxidative weathering in soil environments based on a reductant-driven Fenton’s reaction. Exposure to these oxidative conditions resulted in severe degradation of the QDs: the Zn shell eroded, Cd2+ and selenium were released, and amorphous Se-containing aggregates were formed. Weathered QDs exhibited higher potency than did as-synthesized QDs. Morphological endpoints of toxicity included pericardial, ocular and yolk sac edema, non-depleted yolk, spinal curvature, tail malformations, and craniofacial malformations. To better understand the selenium-like toxicity observed in QD exposures, we examined the toxicity of selenite, selenate and amorphous selenium nanoparticles (SeNPs). Selenite exposures resulted in high mortality to embryos/larvae while selenate and SeNPs were non-toxic. Co-exposures to SeNPs + CdCl2 resulted in dramatic increase in mortality and recapitulated the morphological endpoints of toxicity observed with weathered QD exposures. Cadmium body burden was increased in larvae exposed to weathered QDs or SeNP + CdCl2 suggesting the increased potency of weathered QDs was due to selenium modulation of cadmium toxicity. Our findings highlight the need to examine the toxicity of eNPs after they have undergone environmental weathering processes.
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