Department of Biochemistry & Microbiology, P.O. Box 3055 Stn CSC, University of Victoria, Victoria, B.C., Canada, V8W 3P6, Pacific Environmental Science Centre, Environment Canada, 2545 Dollarton Highway, North Vancouver, BC, Canada, V7H 1 V2, and School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, P.O. Box 3065 Stn CSC, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8W 3V6
Nanometals are manufactured to particle sizes with diameters in the nanometer range and are included in a variety of consumer and health products. There is a lack of information regarding potential effects of these materials on aquatic organisms. Amphibians are regarded as environmental sentinels and demonstrate an exquisite sensitivity to thyroid hormone action, a hormone that is essential for human health. This present study assessed the effect of exposure to nanometals on stress and thyroid hormone signaling in frog tissue using a cultured tail fin biopsy (C-fin) assay derived from Rana catesbeiana tadpoles. The C-fin assay maintains tissue complexity and biological replication while multiple chemical responses can be assessed from the same individual. We tested the ability of nanosilver (0.06 μg/L−5.5 mg/L), quantum dots (0.25 μg/L−22 mg/L), and nanozinc oxide (0.19−10 mg/L) to alter gene expression in the presence or absence of 3,3′,5′-triiodothyronine (T3) using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Results were compared to exposure to micrometer-silver, silver nitrate, and micrometer-cadmium telluride. Nanosilver (≥2.75 mg/L) and quantum dots (≥0.22 mg/L) altered the expression of transcripts linked to T3- and stress-mediated pathways, while nanozinc oxide had no effect. Lower concentrations of nanosilver (0.6 to 550 μg/L) perturbed T3-mediated signaling while not inducing cell stress. The observed effects were orders of magnitude below acute toxicity levels and occurred at or below the current North American water quality guidelines for metals, underscoring the need for evaluating nanoparticles separately from their constituent chemicals.