Danielle E. Que1, Wen-Che Hou This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.1, Micah Belle Marie Yap Ang2, Chih-Chung Lin3

1 Department of Environmental Engineering, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan 70101, Taiwan
2 R&D Center for Membrane Technology and Department of Chemical Engineering, Chung Yuan Christian University, Taoyuan 32023, Taiwan
3 Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Pingtung 91201, Taiwan


Received: April 19, 2020
Revised: June 28, 2020
Accepted: July 19, 2020

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

Download Citation: ||https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2020.04.0157  

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Cite this article:

Que, D.E., Hou, W.C., Ang, M.B.M.Y. and Lin, C.C. (2020). Toxic Effects of Hydroxyl- and Amine-functionalized Silica Nanoparticles (SiO2 and NH2-SiO2 NPs) on Caenorhabditis elegans. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 20: 1987–2002. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2020.04.0157


  • Toxic effects of SiO2 and NH2-SiO2 NPs were evaluated using C. elegans.
  • SiO2 NPs showed higher chronic toxicity as compared to NH2-SiO2 NPs.
  • SiO2 NPs showed higher toxicity in different C. elegans endpoints.
  • Functionality is an important indicator of toxicity in nanosafety evaluations.


Silica nanoparticles (SiO2 NPs) are engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) that have a wide range of application. Increased use in manufacturing has led to concerns about their environmental impact and possible adverse health effects. We conducted a comparative toxicity assessment of bare SiO2-NPs and amine-functionalized SiO2 NPs (NH2-SiO2 NPs) utilizing the Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) in vivo model. L1 nematodes were exposed to exposure concentrations of 0.25, 0.5, 2.5, and 5 mg mL–1 until the worms reached the L4 stage. The chronic lethality and lifespan assays revealed a significant decrease in survival rate and lifespan at 2.5 and 5 mg mL–1 for nematodes exposed to bare SiO2 NPs (89% and 88%; 22 days, p < 0.05 and 14 days, p < 0.05) and at 5 mg mL–1 for the NH2-SiO2 NPs-exposed group (86%; 20 days, p < 0.001). Exposure to all SiO2 NP concentrations reduced progeny production to 79–60% while exposure to 2.5 and 5 mg mL–1 of NH2-SiO2 NPs significantly reduced the brood size to 64–63%. Neurobehavioral toxicity was also observed in the SiO2 NP-exposed worms, which displayed significantly decreased head thrashing for up to 92–71% and in the NH2-SiO2 NPs-exposed worms which showed significantly reduced head thrashing movement for up to 91–85% at concentrations of 0.5-5 mg mL–1. Body bending movements were also significantly reduced at 0.5–5 mg mL–1 SiO2 NPs (71–34%) and 2.5–5 mg mL–1 NH2-SiO2 NPs (94–66%). Significant shortening of body size was also observed in nematodes exposed to 0.5–5 mg mL–1 for both SiO2 NPs (93–81%) and NH2-SiO2 NPs (94–88%). Overall, bare SiO2 NPs were observed to be more toxic due to the negatively charged surface OH groups, which may have disrupted protein homeostasis, resulting in the observed toxicities. We suggest that functionality is an important indicator in nanosafety evaluations.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; Silica nanoparticles; Nanotoxicity; Amine-functionalized silica nanoparticles; Hydroxyl-functionalized silica nanoparticles.

Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 20 :1987 -2020 . https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2020.04.0157  

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