, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 818–829 | Cite as

Toxicity of differently sized and coated silver nanoparticles to the bacterium Pseudomonas putida: risks for the aquatic environment?

  • Marianne MatzkeEmail author
  • Kerstin Jurkschat
  • Thomas Backhaus


Aim of this study was to describe the toxicity of a set of different commercially available silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) to the gram-negative bacterium Pseudomonas putida (growth inhibition assay, ISO 10712) in order to contribute to their environmental hazard and risk assessment. Different AgNP sizes and coatings were selected in order to analyze whether those characteristics are determinants of nanoparticle toxicity. Silver nitrate was tested for comparison. In general Pseudomonas putida reacted very sensitive towards the exposure to silver, with an EC05 value of 0.043 μg L−1 for AgNO3 and between 0.13 and 3.41 μg L−1 for the different AgNPs (EC50 values 0.16 μg L−1 for AgNO3, resp. between 0.25 and 13.4 μg L−1 for AgNPs). As the ionic form of silver is clearly the most toxic, an environmental hazard assessment for microorganisms based on total silver concentration and the assumption that AgNPs dissolve is sufficiently protective. Neither specific coatings nor certain sizes could be linked to increasing or decreasing toxicity. The characterization of particle behavior as well as the total and dissolved silver content in the medium during the exposures was not possible due to the high sensitivity of Pseudomonas (test concentrations were below detection limits), indicating the need for further development in the analytical domain. Monitored silver concentrations in the aquatic environment span six orders of magnitude (0.1–120,000 ng L−1), which falls into the span of observed EC05 values and might hence indicate a risk to environmental bacteria.


Pseudomonas putida Bacterial growth inhibition assay Silver nanoparticles Silver nitrate Environmental hazard assessment 



The authors thank the following people for their support and helpful discussions: Åsa Arrhenius (University of Gothenburg) for support with the experiments, Mark Ware (NanoSight) for help with recording the NTA videos, Jurgen Arning and Juliane Filser (University of Bremen) for supplying the NM-300 K and PL-Ag-S10 particles in the context of the UMSICHT R&D Project (Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany, 03X0091).


The study was financially supported by the Swedish Research Council (Projects NanoRisk and NanoSphere) and the European Commission (FP7 Project NanoFATE, NMP4-SL-2010-24773).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10646_2014_1222_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 26 kb)
10646_2014_1222_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (15 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 15 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marianne Matzke
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Kerstin Jurkschat
    • 2
  • Thomas Backhaus
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of GothenburgGöteborgSweden
  2. 2.Department of MaterialsOxford University Begbroke Science ParkOxfordUnited Kingdom
  3. 3.Centre for Ecology and HydrologyNatural Environment Research CouncilWallingfordUnited Kingdom

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