The partitioning of 4- and 18-nm gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) to aquatic macrophytes was investigated in vivo with exposure suspension in well water. Three morphologically distinct aquatic macrophytes were studied. Myriophyllum simulans Orch. and Egeria densa Planch. are submerged aquatic vascular plants, whereas Azolla caroliniana Willd. is a free-floating aquatic fern. Because aquatic plants absorb the majority of their nutrients from the water column, it is logical to hypothesize that they may absorb nanomaterials in suspension, potentially facilitating trophic transfer. Each plant was exposed to two different-sized gold nanospheres at a nominal concentration of 250 µg/L AuNPs for 24 h. Macrophytes were harvested at six time points (1, 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 h), dried, and then analyzed for gold concentration via inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry. Concentrations were normalized to whole-plant dry tissue mass. The present study shows that absorption of AuNPs through root uptake was size and species dependent. Electron microscopy revealed that 4- and 18-nm AuNPs adsorbed to the roots of each species. Root tissue was sectioned, and transmission electron microscopy indicated that 4-nm and 18-nm AuNPs were absorbed by A. caroliniana, whereas only 4-nm AuNPs were absorbed by M. simulans. Egeria densa did not absorb AuNPs of either size. Gold nanoparticles were confirmed in tissue by using energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. Absorption of AuNPs by plants may be a function of the salinity tolerance of each species. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012;31:194–201. © 2011 SETAC
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