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Toxicity Effects of Engineered Iron Nanoparticles (Fe3O4) on the Growth, Cell Density, and Pigment Content of Chlorella vulgaris


This study investigated the effects of Fe3O4 nanoparticles released from synthesized thiourea catalyst on the biological aspects of Chlorella vulgaris. Fe3O4 concentrations (0, 10, 100, 250, 500, 750, and 1000 mg L−1) were used for the exposure tests. Biological parameters of C. vulgaris, including cell density, cell viability, and pigment content, were assessed. Bioconcentration and bioaccumulation factors were evaluated for contaminated microalgae. Non-carcinogenic risks were then assessed using target hazard quotient (THQ) for potential risks in human consumptions. Findings showed that C. vulgaris cell number increased from 0 to 500 mg L−1 of Fe3O4 concentration. Chlorophyll a represented a time-dependent response, and greatest values were detected in 250 and 500 mg L−1 Fe3O4 at 4.2 and 4 mg/g, respectively. Chlorophyll b content showed a time-related manner in exposure to Fe3O4 with the highest values recorded at 250 mg L−1 after 96 h. Moreover, bioaccumulation displayed a dose-dependent response at 15,000 µg/g dw in 1000 mg L−1, whereas the lowest concentration was in the control group at 1700 µg/g dw. The bioconcentration factor showed a concentration-relevant decrease in all iron treatments and 10 mg L−1 of Fe3O4 represented the greatest BCF at 327.3611. Non-carcinogenic risks illustrated negligible hazard (THQ < 1) and the largest EDI and THQ were calculated in 1000 mg L−1 at 7.4332E–07 (mg kg−1 day−1) and 1.06189E–09, respectively. Together, iron is an essential trace element for biological purposes in aquatic systems, but in exceeding concentrations could impose toxicity effects to C. vulgaris populations.

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The authors declare that all data that reported in this work are available and included in this paper.


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The authors gratefully thank the Arvin Zist Pooya Lab for technical supports.


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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by [Tahereh Ebrahimi Yazdanabdad], [Ali Forghaniha], [Majid Ramezani1] and [Mozhgan Emtyazjoo]. The first draft of the manuscript was written by [Tahereh Ebrahimi Yazdanabdad], and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Mozhgan Emtyazjoo.

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The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

Animal Research (Ethics)

This study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Approval was granted by the Ethics Committee of Islamic Azad University (Tehran, Iran).

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Yazdanabdad, T.E., Forghaniha, A., Emtyazjoo, M. et al. Toxicity Effects of Engineered Iron Nanoparticles (Fe3O4) on the Growth, Cell Density, and Pigment Content of Chlorella vulgaris. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 83, 155–167 (2022).

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