Influence of dissolution on the uptake of bimetallic nanoparticles Au@Ag-NPs in soil organism Eisenia fetida

M. Baccaro*, M.D. Montaño, X. Cui, A. Mackevica, I. Lynch, F. von der Kammer, R.W. Lodge, A.N. Khlobystov, N.W. van den Brink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


A key aspect in the safety testing of metal nanoparticles (NPs) is the measurement of their dissolution and of the true particle uptake in organisms. Here, based on the tendency of Ag-NP to dissolve and Au-NP to be inert in the environment, we exposed the earthworm Eisenia fetida to Au core-Ag shell NPs (Au@Ag-NPs, Ag-NPs with a Au core) and to both single and combined exposures of non-coated Au-NPs, Ag-NPs, Ag+ and Au+ ions in natural soil. Our hypothesis was that the Ag shell would partially or completely dissolve from the Au@Ag-NPs and that the Au core would thereby behave as a tracer of particulate uptake. Au and Ag concentrations were quantified in all the soils, in soil extract and in organisms by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). The earthworm exposed to Au@Ag-NPs, and to all the combinations of Ag and Au, were analyzed by single particle inductively coupled plasma time-of-flight mass spectrometry (spICP-TOFMS) to allow the quantification of the metals that were truly part of a bimetallic particle. Results showed that only 5% of the total metal amounts in the earthworm were in the bimetallic particulate form and that the Ag shell increased in thickness, suggesting that biotransformation processes took place at the surface of the NPs. Additionally, the co-exposure to both metal ions led to a different uptake pattern compared to the single metal exposures. The study unequivocally confirmed that dissolution is the primary mechanism driving the uptake of (dissolving) metal NPs in earthworms. Therefore, the assessment of the uptake of metal nanoparticles is conservatively covered by the assessment of the uptake of their ionic counterpart.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134909
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Accumulation
  • Bimetallic nanoparticle
  • Earthworm
  • Metal mixture
  • Soil


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