• Ni(OH)2 nanoparticles;
  • Living plants;
  • X-ray absorption spectroscopy;
  • Biotransformation;
  • Nanoparticle accumulation


Nanomaterials are of particular interest in environmental chemistry due to their unknown toxicity to living organisms. Reports indicate that nanoparticles (NPs) affect seed germination, but the uptake and biotransformation of metal nanoparticles is not well understood. The present study investigated the toxicity and biotransformation of Ni(OH)2 NPs by mesquite plants (Prosopis sp.). Three sets of plants were treated for four weeks with 0.01, 0.05, or 0.10 g of either uncoated or sodium citrate coated NPs before and after synthesis. Nickel concentrations in plants were determined by inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) and the form and oxidation state of Ni was determined using X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS). Results showed that uncoated NPs had an average size of 8.7 nm, whereas coated NPs before and after synthesis had an average of 2.5 and 0.9 nm, respectively. The ICP-OES results showed that plants treated with 0.10 g of uncoated and coated NPs before and after synthesis had 803, 764, and 400 mg Ni kg dry weight, in the leaves, respectively. The XAS analyses showed Ni NPs in roots and shoots of plants treated with uncoated NPs, whereas leaves showed a Ni(II)-organic acid type complex. However, plants treated with coated NPs before or after synthesis showed Ni NPs only in roots and a Ni(II)-organic acid complex in shoots and leaves. Results also showed that none of the treatments reduced plant size or chlorophyll production. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first time that the biotransformation of nanoparticles by a plant system is reported. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:1146–1154. © 2010 SETAC