Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 10, pp 10090–10102 | Cite as

Effects of fullerene (C60), multi-wall carbon nanotubes (MWCNT), single wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) and hydroxyl and carboxyl modified single wall carbon nanotubes on riverine microbial communities

  • J. R. LawrenceEmail author
  • M. J. Waiser
  • G. D. W. Swerhone
  • J. Roy
  • V. Tumber
  • A. Paule
  • A. P. Hitchcock
  • J. J. Dynes
  • D. R. Korber
Research Article


Commercial production of nanoparticles (NP) has created a need for research to support regulation of nanotechnology. In the current study, microbial biofilm communities were developed in rotating annular reactors during continuous exposure to 500 μg L−1 of each nanomaterial and subjected to multimetric analyses. Scanning transmission X-ray spectromicroscopy (STXM) was used to detect and estimate the presence of the carbon nanomaterials in the biofilm communities. Microscopy observations indicated that the communities were visibly different in appearance with changes in abundance of filamentous cyanobacteria in particular. Microscale analyses indicated that fullerene (C60) did not significantly (p < 0.05) impact algal, cyanobacterial or bacterial biomass. In contrast, MWCNT exposure resulted in a significant decline in algal and bacteria biomass. Interestingly, the presence of SWCNT products increased algal biomass, significantly in the case of SWCNT-COOH (p < 0.05) but had no significant impact on cyanobacterial or bacterial biomass. Thymidine incorporation indicated that bacterial production was significantly reduced (p < 0.05) by all nanomaterials with the exception of fullerene. Biolog assessment of carbon utilization revealed few significant effects with the exception of the utilization of carboxylic acids. PCA and ANOSIM analyses of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) results indicated that the bacterial communities exposed to fullerene were not different from the control, the MWCNT and SWNT-OH differed from the control but not each other, whereas the SWCNT and SWCNT-COOH both differed from all other treatments and were significantly different from the control (p < 0.05). Fluorescent lectin binding analyses also indicated significant (p < 0.05) changes in the nature and quantities of exopolymer consistent with changes in microbial community structure during exposure to all nanomaterials. Enumeration of protozoan grazers showed declines in communities exposed to fullerene or MWCNT but a trend for increases in all SWCNT exposures. Observations indicated that at 500 μg L−1, carbon nanomaterials significantly alter aspects of microbial community structure and function supporting the need for further evaluation of their effects in aquatic habitats.


Carbon nanotubes Fullerenes Effects Microbial activity Diversity Metabolism 



This work was funded through Environment Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan. The Canadian Light Source (CLS) is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Province of Saskatchewan, Western Economic Diversification Canada and the University of Saskatchewan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. R. Lawrence
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. J. Waiser
    • 1
  • G. D. W. Swerhone
    • 1
  • J. Roy
    • 1
  • V. Tumber
    • 1
  • A. Paule
    • 2
  • A. P. Hitchcock
    • 3
  • J. J. Dynes
    • 4
  • D. R. Korber
    • 5
  1. 1.Environment Canada, National Hydrology Research CentreSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Global Institute for Water SecurityUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  3. 3.Brockhouse Institute for Materials ResearchMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  4. 4.Canadian Light SourceUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  5. 5.Food and Bioproduct SciencesUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

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