Symbiosis between nitrogen-fixing bacteria and Medicago truncatula is not significantly affected by silver and silver sulfide nanomaterials

Jonathan D. Judy, Jason K. Kirby, Mike J. McLaughlin, David McNear, Paul M. Bertsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Silver (Ag) engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are being released into waste streams and are being discharged, largely as Ag2S aged-ENMs (a-ENMs), into agroecosystems receiving biosolids amendments. Recent research has demonstrated that biosolids containing an environmentally relevant mixture of ZnO, TiO2, and Ag ENMs and their transformation products, including Ag2S a-ENMs, disrupted the symbiosis between nitrogen-fixing bacteria and legumes. However, this study was unable to unequivocally determine which ENM or combination of ENMs and a-ENMs was responsible for the observed inhibition. Here, we examined further the effects of polyvinylpyrollidone (PVP) coated pristine Ag ENMs (PVP-Ag), Ag2S a-ENMs, and soluble Ag (as AgSO4) at 1, 10, and 100 mg Ag kg-1 on the symbiosis between the legume Medicago truncatula and the nitrogen-fixing bacterium, Sinorhizobium melliloti in biosolids-amended soil. Nodulation frequency, nodule function, glutathione reductase production, and biomass were not significantly affected by any of the Ag treatments, even at 100 mg kg-1, a concentration analogous to a worst-case scenario resulting from long-term, repeated biosolids amendments. Our results provide additional evidence that the disruption of the symbiosis between nitrogen-fixing bacteria and legumes in response to a mixture of ENMs in biosolids-amended soil reported previously may not be attributable to Ag ENMs or their transformation end-products. We anticipate these findings will provide clarity to regulators and industry regarding potential unintended consequences to terrestrial ecosystems resulting from of the use of Ag ENMs in consumer products.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-736
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd.


  • Nanoparticles
  • Nanotechnology
  • Nanotoxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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