Soils are a sink for sulfidised-silver nanoparticles (Ag2S-NPs), yet there are limited ecotoxicity data for their effects on microbial communities. Conventional toxicity tests typically target a single test species or function, which does not reflect the broader community response. Using a combination of quantitative PCR, 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing and species sensitivity distribution (SSD) methods, we have developed a new approach to calculate silver-based NP toxicity thresholds (HCx, hazardous concentrations) that are protective of specific members (operational taxonomic units, OTUs) of the soil microbial community. At the HC20 (80% of species protected), soil OTUs were significantly less sensitive to Ag2S-NPs compared to AgNPs and Ag+ (5.9, 1.4 and 1.4 mg Ag kg-1, respectively). However at more conservative HC values, there were no significant differences. These trends in OTU responses matched with those seen in a specific microbial function (rate of nitrification) and amoA-bacteria gene abundance. This study provides a novel molecularbased framework for quantifying the effect of a toxicant on whole soil microbial communities while still determining sensitive genera/species. Methods and results described here provide a benchmark for microbial community ecotoxicological studies and we recommend that future revisions of Soil Quality Guidelines for AgNPs and other such toxicants consider this approach.
Doolette, C. L., Gupta, V. V. S. R., Lu, Y., Payne, J. L., Batstone, D. J., Kirby, J. K., … McLaughlin, M. J. (2016). Quantifying the sensitivity of soil microbial communities to silver sulfide nanoparticles using metagenome sequencing. PLoS ONE, 11(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0161979