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Silver nanoparticles (Ag NPs) exponential production raises concern about their environmental impact. The effects of Ag NPs to aquatic plants remain scarcely studied, especially in extended exposures. This paper aims to evaluate Ag NPs effects in Lemna minor at individual and sub-individual levels, focusing on three variables: Ag form (NPs versus ions – Ag+), NPs surface coating (citrate vs polyvinylpyrrolidone – PVP) and exposure period (7 vs 14 days). Endpoints were assessed at individual level (specific growth rate, chlorosis incidence and number of fronds per colony) and sub-individual level (enzymatic activities of catalase (CAT), guaiacol peroxidase (GPx) and glutathione-S-transferase (GST)). Generally, plants exposed to all Ag forms underwent decays on growth rate and fronds per colony, and increases on chlorosis, GPX and GST, but no effects on CAT. The most sensitive endpoints were specific growth rate and GPx activity, showing significant effects down to 0.05 mg/L for Ag NPs and 3 μg/L for Ag+, after 14 days. Ag+ showed higher toxicity with a 14d–EC50 of 0.0037 mg Ag/L. Concerning surface coating, PVP-Ag NPs were more deleterious on growth rate and fronds per colony, whereas citrate-Ag NPs affected more the chlorosis incidence and GPx and GST activities. The exposure period significantly affected chlorosis: 14 days triggered a chlorosis increase in Ag+-exposed plants and a decrease in Ag NPs-exposed plants when compared to 7 days. Ag NPs induced an oxidative stress status in cells, thus ensuing upregulated enzymatic activity as a self-defense mechanism. Since Ag NPs dissolution might occur on a steady and continuous mode along time, and the average longevity of fronds, we propose longer exposures periods than the recommended by the OECD guideline. This approach would provide more relevant and holistic evidences on the overall response of freshwater plants to Ag NPs in an ecological relevant scenario.

Original publication




Journal article


Science of the Total Environment

Publication Date





1389 - 1399