Cytotoxicity effects of water dispersible oxidized multiwalled carbon nanotubes on marine alga, Dunaliella tertiolecta

Liping Wei, Megha Thakkar, Yuhong Chen, Susana Addo Ntim, Somenath Mitra, Xueyan Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


The multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) are novel materials with many potential applications. The ecotoxicity of these materials is not well studied, but it is essential for environmental impact assessments. In this study a commercially available MWNT material was carboxylated by microwave assisted acid oxidation. This functionalized MWNT (f-MWNT) material was examined for toxicity effects using unicellular marine green alga Dunaliella tertiolecta. D. tertiolecta was exposed to f-MWNT which had been pre-equilibrated with culture media for 24 h. Substantial growth lag phase was observed at 5 and 10mgL-1 f-MWNT, and the resulting 50% effective concentration (EC50) on 96-h growth was 0.82±0.08mgL-1. During mid-exponential growth phase cytotoxicity was evidenced at 10mgL-1 f-MWNT in 36% reduction in exponential growth rate, 88mV more positive glutathione redox potential (indicative of oxidative stress), 5% and 22% reduction in photosystem II (PSII) quantum yield and functional cross section respectively, all relative to the control cultures. However, when the large f-MWNT aggregates in the media with 10mgL-1 f-MWNT were removed by 0.2μm filtration, D. tertiolecta did not show significant cytotoxicity effects in any of the above parameters. This suggests that the cytotoxicity effects originated predominately from the large f-MWNT aggregates. Analysis of the f-MWNT aggregation dynamics suggests active interaction between f-MWNT and algal cells or cell metabolites that promoted f-MWNT aggregation formation. The f-MWNT particles were also found absorbed on algal cell surface. The direct contact between f-MWNT and cell surface was likely responsible for reduced PSII functional cross section and oxidative stress during exponential growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-201
Number of pages8
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 15 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Aggregates
  • Ecotoxicity
  • Glutathione
  • Marine algae
  • Multiwalled carbon nanotubes
  • Nanoparticles
  • Photosystem II
  • Seawater


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