Comparative contributions of copper nanoparticles and ions to copper bioaccumulation and toxicity in barnacle larvae

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

18 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-124
Journal / PublicationEnvironmental Pollution
Online published8 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


Cu nanoparticles (CuNPs) have been widely used in numerous products, and may become a potential threat to marine organisms, but their behavior in the marine environments and potential toxicity to marine organisms remain little known. In the present study, we investigated the behavior of CuNPs in seawater, as well as the toxicity and bioaccumulation of CuNPs and copper sulfate (CuSO4) in barnacle larvae (Balanus amphitrite), a dominant fouling invertebrate in marine environment. CuNPs tended to aggregate in natural seawater and released Cu ion rapidly into seawater. The aggregation and release were especially higher at a lower concentration of CuNPs, e.g., 94–96% of CuNPs were released as Cu ions at 20 μg/L after 24 h. The larger size of CuNPs (40 nm) tended to display a higher solubility than the 20 nm CuNPs did. Humic acids enhanced the aggregation and inhibited the dissolution of CuNPs, and had a protective effect on the survival of nauplii II at higher Cu concentrations (100–200 μg/L). Comparison of the lethal concentrations showed that CuNPs were generally less toxic to the two stages of barnacle larvae (nauplii II and VI) than the Cu ions. The calculated 48-h LC50 values for nauplii II were 189.5 μg/L, 123.2 μg/L, and 89.8 μg/L for 20 nm CuNPs, 40 nm CuNPs, and CuSO4, respectively. However, the lethal concentrations of Cu bioaccumulation in the barnacle larvae were comparable between CuNPs and Cu ions when expressed by the actual tissue Cu bioaccumulation. Barnacle larval settlement decreased with an increase of Cu concentrations of both CuNPs and CuSO4, and was significantly inhibited at 100 μg/L CuSO4 and 150 μg/L CuNPs. Our results indicated that the toxicity of CuNPs could not be solely explained by the released Cu ions, and both CuNPs and the released Cu ion contributed to their toxicity and bioaccumulation in barnacle larvae.

Research Area(s)

  • Barnacle larvae, Bioaccumulation, Copper nanoparticles, Settlement, Toxicity