Bioaccumulation of gold nanomaterials by Manduca sexta through dietary uptake of surface contaminated plant tissue

Jonathan D. Judy, Jason M. Unrine, William Rao, Paul M. Bertsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


We investigated the potential for bioaccumulation of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) by tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) caterpillars resulting from the ingestion of plant tissue surface contaminated with ENMs. Caterpillars were fed tomato leaf tissue that had been surface contaminated with 12 nm tannate coated Au ENMs. After dosing was complete, bulk Au concentrations in individual caterpillars were measured after 0, 1, 4, and 7 days of elimination. Growth, mortality, and ingestion rate were monitored. This experiment revealed (1) no evidence that caterpillars were affected by ingestion of ENM contaminated plant tissue; (2) low bioaccumulation factors (BAF = 0.16) compared to a previous study where hornworm caterpillars were fed plants that had previously bioaccumulated Au ENMs (BAF = 6.2-11.6); (3) inefficient elimination of accumulated Au ENMs not associated with hornworm gut contents; and (4) regional differences in translocation of Au ENMs into tissues surrounding the hornworm gut, possibly the result of the interaction between ENM surface chemistry and regional differences in hornworm gut chemistry. These data, along with previous findings, indicate that although ENMs resuspended from soil onto plant surfaces by wind, water, biota, and/or mechanical disturbances are bioavailable to terrestrial consumers, bioaccumulation efficiency may be much lower via this pathway than through direct trophic exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12672-12678
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 20 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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