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Effects of low-level engineered nanoparticles on the quorum sensing of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1


The toxicity of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) on bacteria has aroused much interest. However, few studies have focused on the effects of low-level ENPs on bacterial group behaviors that are regulated by quorum sensing (QS). Herein, we investigated the effects of nine ENPs (Ag, Fe, ZnO, TiO2, SiO2, Fe2O3, single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), graphene oxide (GO), and C60) on QS in Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAOl. An ENP concentration of 100 μg L−1 did not impair bacterial growth. However, concentrations of 100 μg L−1 of Ag and GO ENPs induced significant increases in 3OC12–HSL in the culture and significantly promoted protease production and biofilm formation of PAO1. C4–HSL synthase and its transcription factors were less sensitive to 100 μg L−1 Ag and GO ENPs compared with 3OC12-HSL. Fe ENPs induced a significant increase in the 3OC12–HSL concentration, similar to Ag and GO ENPs. However, Fe ENPs did not induce any significant increase in protease production or biofilm formation. Different size distributions, chemical compositions, and aggregation states of the ENPs had different effects on bacterial QS. These whole circuit indicators could clarify the effects of ENPs on bacterial QS. This study furthers our understanding of the effects of low-level ENPs on bacterial social behaviors.

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N-3-oxo-dodecanoyl homoserine lactone

Ag+ :





Acyl-homoserine lactone


N-butanoyl homoserine lactone

C60 :



Engineering nanoparticles


Zero-valence nanometer iron

Fe2+ :


Fe2O3 :

Nano-ferric oxide

Fe3+ :



Graphene oxide




Optical density


Quorum sensing

SiO2 :

Nano-silicon dioxide


Single-wall carbon nanotubes

TiO2 :

Nano-titanium dioxide


Nano-zinc oxide


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This study was supported by the National Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 51478432 and 31570490) and the Foundations of the Education Department of Zhejiang Province (Grant No. Y201636262). The authors thank the Ajai A Dandekar Lab, University of Washington, for providing plasmids and helpful assistance. The authors also thank Kate Fox, DPhil, from Liwen Bianji, Edanz Group China (www.liwenbianji.cn/ac), for editing the English text of a draft of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Meizhen Wang.

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Li, N., Wang, L., Yan, H. et al. Effects of low-level engineered nanoparticles on the quorum sensing of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 7049–7058 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-0947-5

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  • Low-level
  • Engineered nanoparticle
  • Quorum sensing
  • Group behavior