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Combined effects of silver nanoparticles and 17α-ethinylestradiol on the freshwater mudsnail Potamopyrgus antipodarum

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Ecotoxicological studies have shown that nanosilver is among the most toxic nanomaterials to aquatic organisms. However, research has so far focused on the determination of acute effects. Combined effects of nanosilver with other substances have not yet been studied in aquatic organisms. The present study aimed to investigate the chronic toxicity of nanosilver as well as the potential of nanosilver to influence the effects of co-occurring substances on the freshwater mudsnail Potamopyrgus antipodarum. In 28-day chronic toxicity experiments, the effects of nanosilver on the reproduction of P. antipodarum were assessed. In order to evaluate the influence of nanosilver on other substances, 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2) was chosen as model compound due to the well-characterized effects on P. antipodarum. In addition to effects on reproduction, exposure to nanosilver and EE2 was monitored by determining the expression of estrogen-responsive transcripts (estrogen receptor and vitellogenin encoding genes). Exposure to nanosilver decreased the reproduction of P. antipodarum (EC10: 5.57 μg l−1; EC50: 15.0 μg l−1). Exposure to EE2 significantly stimulated the embryo production at 25 ng l−1. The presence of nanosilver led to increased EE2 effects at EE2 concentrations that had no influence on reproduction when applied in absence of nanosilver. In contrast, combined exposure to nanosilver decreased EE2 effects at concentrations that stimulated reproduction and the expression of estrogen responsive genes when applied in the absence of nanosilver. This is the first study demonstrating an influence of nanosilver on the effects of co-contaminants on aquatic organisms. The study further highlights the need for chronic experiments to properly assess environmental risks of nanosilver and their effects on co-occurring contaminants.

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The authors thank Jan Daubenthaler for his practical help in the exposure experiments with P. antipodarum and Heike Heidenreich and Olaf Wappelhorst for ICP-MS analyses. This study was supported by a personal grant to the first author by the scholarship program of the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes).

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Correspondence to Carolin Völker.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Völker, C., Gräf, T., Schneider, I. et al. Combined effects of silver nanoparticles and 17α-ethinylestradiol on the freshwater mudsnail Potamopyrgus antipodarum . Environ Sci Pollut Res 21, 10661–10670 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-014-3067-5

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  • Nanomaterials
  • Ecotoxicity
  • Freshwater gastropod
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Reproduction
  • Mixture toxicity