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Nanotoxicology. 2017 Jun;11(5):625-636. doi: 10.1080/17435390.2017.1340527. Epub 2017 Jun 23.

CeO2 nanoparticles alter the outcome of species interactions.

Peng C1,2,3,4, Chen Y2,4,5, Pu Z4, Zhao Q4, Tong X2, Chen Y2, Jiang L4.

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a Department of Environmental Science, College of Environmental Science and Engineering , Donghua University , Shanghai , China.
b School of Civil and Environmental Engineering , Georgia Institute of Technology , Atlanta , GA , USA.
c Department of Environmental Engineering, College of Environmental and Resource Sciences , Zhejiang University , Hangzhou , Zhejiang , China.
d School of Biology , Georgia Institute of Technology , Atlanta , GA , USA.
e College of Architecture and Environment , Sichuan University , Chengdu , Sichuan , China.


Despite considerable research on the environmental impacts of nanomaterials, we know little about how they influence interactions between species. Here, we investigated the acute (12 d) and chronic (64 d) toxicities of cerium oxide nanoparticles (CeO2 NPs) and bulk particles (0-200 mg/L) to three ciliated protist species (Loxocephalus sp., Paramecium aurelia, and Tetrahymena pyriformis) in single-, bi-, and multispecies microcosms. The results show that CeO2 NPs strongly affected the interactions between ciliated protozoan species. When exposed to the highest CeO2 NPs (200 mg/L), the intrinsic growth rates of Loxocephalus and Paramecium were significantly decreased by 18.87% and 88.27%, respectively, while their carrying capacities declined by more than 90%. However, CeO2 NP exposure made it difficult to predict outcomes of interspecific competition between species. At higher NP exposure (100 and 200 mg/L), competition led to the extinction of both species in the Loxocephalus and Paramecium microcosms that survived in the absence of competitors or CeO2 NPs. Further, the presence of potential competitors improved the survival of Loxocephalus to hundreds of individuals per milliliter in microcosms with Tetrahymena where Loxocephalus would otherwise not be able to tolerate high levels of NP exposure. This result could be attributed to weakened NP adsorption on the cell surface due to competitor-caused reduction of NP surface charge (from -18.52 to -25.17 mV) and intensified NP aggregation via phagocytosis of NPs by ciliate cells. Our results emphasize the need to explicitly consider species interactions for a more comprehensive understanding of the ecological consequences of NP exposure.


CeO2 nanoparticles; ciliate protists; interspecific competition; population abundance; toxicity

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