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Phytostimulation of Poplars and Arabidopsis Exposed to Silver Nanoparticles and Ag+ at Sublethal Concentrations

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journal contribution
posted on 21.05.2013, 00:00 by Jing Wang, Yeonjong Koo, Anne Alexander, Yu Yang, Samantha Westerhof, Qingbo Zhang, Jerald L. Schnoor, Vicki L. Colvin, Janet Braam, Pedro J. J. Alvarez
The increasing likelihood of silver nanoparticle (AgNP) releases to the environment highlights the importance of understanding AgNP interactions with plants, which are cornerstones of most ecosystems. In this study, poplars (Populus deltoides × nigra) and Arabidopsis thaliana were exposed hydroponically to nanoparticles of different sizes (PEG-coated 5 and 10 nm AgNPs, and carbon-coated 25 nm AgNPs) or silver ions (Ag+, added as AgNO3) at a wide range of concentrations (0.01 to 100 mg/L). Whereas all forms of silver were phytotoxic above a specific concentration, a stimulatory effect was observed on root elongation, fresh weight, and evapotranspiration of both plants at a narrow range of sublethal concentrations (e.g., 1 mg/L of 25 nm AgNPs for poplar). Plants were most susceptible to the toxic effects of Ag+ (1 mg/L for poplar, 0.05 mg/L for Arabidopsis), but AgNPs also showed some toxicity at higher concentrations (e.g., 100 mg/L of 25 nm AgNPs for poplar, 1 mg/L of 5 nm AgNPs for Arabidopsis) and this susceptibility increased with decreasing AgNP size. Both poplars and Arabidopsis accumulated silver, but silver distribution in shoot organs varied between plant species. Arabidopsis accumulated silver primarily in leaves (at 10-fold higher concentrations than in the stem or flower tissues), whereas poplars accumulated silver at similar concentrations in leaves and stems. Within the particle subinhibitory concentration range, silver accumulation in poplar tissues increased with exposure concentration and with smaller AgNP size. However, compared to larger AgNPs, the faster silver uptake associated with smaller AgNPs was offset by their toxic effect on evapotranspiration, which was exerted at lower concentrations (e.g., 1 mg/L of 5 nm AgNPs for poplar). Overall, the observed phytostimulatory effects preclude generalizations about the phytotoxicity of AgNPs and encourage further mechanistic research.