Acute Effects of TiO2 Nanomaterials on the Viability and Taxonomic Composition of Aquatic Bacterial Communities Assessed via High-Throughput Screening and Next Generation Sequencing

Chu Thi Tanh Binh
Tiezheng Tong
Jean-François Gaillard
Kimberley A. Gray
John J. Kelly, Loyola University Chicago

Author Posting. © Binh et al., 2014. This article is posted here by permission of the authors for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in PLOS ONE, Volume 9, Issue 8, August 2014.


The nanotechnology industry is growing rapidly, leading to concerns about the potential ecological consequences of the release of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) to the environment. One challenge of assessing the ecological risks of ENMs is the incredible diversity of ENMs currently available and the rapid pace at which new ENMs are being developed. High-throughput screening (HTS) is a popular approach to assessing ENM cytotoxicity that offers the opportunity to rapidly test in parallel a wide range of ENMs at multiple concentrations. However, current HTS approaches generally test one cell type at a time, which limits their ability to predict responses of complex microbial communities. In this study toxicity screening via a HTS platform was used in combination with next generation sequencing (NGS) to assess responses of bacterial communities from two aquatic habitats, Lake Michigan (LM) and the Chicago River (CR), to short-term exposure in their native waters to several commercial TiO2 nanomaterials under simulated solar irradiation. Results demonstrate that bacterial communities from LM and CR differed in their sensitivity to nano-TiO2, with the community from CR being more resistant. NGS analysis revealed that the composition of the bacterial communities from LM and CR were significantly altered by exposure to nano-TiO2, including decreases in overall bacterial diversity, decreases in the relative abundance of Actinomycetales, Sphingobacteriales, Limnohabitans, and Flavobacterium, and a significant increase in Limnobacter. These results suggest that the release of nano-TiO2 to the environment has the potential to alter the composition of aquatic bacterial communities, which could have implications for the stability and function of aquatic ecosystems. The novel combination of HTS and NGS described in this study represents a major advance over current methods for assessing ENM ecotoxicity because the relative toxicities of multiple ENMs to thousands of naturally occurring bacterial species can be assessed simultaneously under environmentally relevant conditions.