Soil components mitigate the antimicrobial effect of silver nanoparticles towards a beneficial soil bacterium, Pseudomonas chlororaphisO6

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Science of the Total Environment





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Silver nanoparticles (Ag NPs) are widely used for their antimicrobial activity and consequently the particles will become environmental contaminants. This study evaluated in sand and soil matrices the toxicity of 10nm spherical Ag NPs (1 and 3mg Ag/L) toward a beneficial soil bacterium, Pseudomonas chlororaphis O6. In sand, both NP doses resulted in loss in bacterial culturability whereas in a loam soil, no cell death was observed. Amendments of sand with clays (30% v/v kaolinite or bentonite) did not protect the bacterium when challenged with Ag NPs. However, culturability of the bacterium was maintained when the Ag NP-amended sand was mixed with soil pore water or humic acid. Imaging by atomic force microscopy revealed aggregation of single nanoparticles in water, and their embedding into background material when suspended in pore water and humic acids. Zeta potential measurements supported aggregation and surface charge modifications with pore water and humic acids. Measurement of soluble Ag in the microcosms and geochemical modeling to deduce the free ion concentration revealed bacterial culturability was governed by the predicted free Ag ion concentrations. Our study confirmed the importance of Ag NPs as a source of ions and illustrated that processes accounting for protection in soil against Ag NPs involved distinct NP- and ion-effects. Processes affecting NP bioactivity involved surface charge changes due to sorption of Ca 2+ from the pore water leading to agglomeration and coating of the NPs with humic acid and other organic materials. Removal of bioactive ions included the formation of soluble Ag complexes with dissolved organic carbon and precipitation of Ag ions with chloride in pore water. We conclude that mitigation of toxicity of Ag NPs in soils towards a soil bacterium resides in several interactions that differentially involve protection from the Ag NPs or the ions they produce. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

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