Gold nanoparticle biodissolution by a freshwater macrophyte and its associated microbiome

Astrid Avellan, Marie Simonin, Eric McGivney, Nathan Bossa, Eleanor Spielman-Sun, Jennifer D. Rocca, Emily S. Bernhardt, Nicholas K. Geitner, Jason M. Unrine, Mark R. Wiesner, Gregory V. Lowry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Predicting nanoparticle fate in aquatic environments requires mimicking of ecosystem complexity to observe the geochemical processes affecting their behaviour. Here, 12 nm Au nanoparticles were added weekly to large-scale freshwater wetland mesocosms. After six months, ~70% of Au was associated with the macrophyte Egeria densa, where, despite the thermodynamic stability of Au0 in water, the pristine Au0 nanoparticles were fully oxidized and complexed to cyanide, hydroxyls or thiol ligands. Extracted biofilms growing on E. densa leaves were shown to dissolve Au nanoparticles within days. The Au biodissolution rate was highest for the biofilm with the lowest prevalence of metal-resistant taxa but the highest ability to release cyanide, known to promote Au0 oxidation and complexation. Macrophytes and the associated microbiome thus form a biologically active system that can be a major sink for nanoparticle accumulation and transformations. Nanoparticle biotransformation in these compartments should not be ignored, even for nanoparticles commonly considered to be stable in the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1072-1077
Number of pages6
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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