Combined toxicity of nano-CuO/nano-TiO2 and CuSO4/nano-TiO2 on Escherichia coli in aquatic environments under dark and light conditions

Xiaoya Chen, Carolyn M. Wilke, Jean François Gaillard*, Kimberly A. Gray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Copper(II) oxide nanoparticles (n-CuO) and copper(II) sulfate (CuSO4), commonly used in industrial and agricultural applications, are released in substantial amounts to the environment where they may then interact in unexpected ways with other materials such as engineered nanomaterials (ENM). In this study, we assessed the combined effects of their interaction with titanium(IV) dioxide nanoparticles (n-TiO2), a widely used ENM, on the ATP levels and cell membrane integrity of Escherichia coli in a natural aqueous medium (Lake Michigan water). Under dark conditions, we observed that n-TiO2 addition had negligible effects on copper toxicity, except in the case of higher doses of CuSO4 where n-TiO2 attenuated bacterial stress effects presumably by the adsorption of copper ions at the n-TiO2 surface. However, an opposite effect was observed under exposure to simulated solar irradiation (SSI) with synergistic stress occurring in mixtures of n-TiO2 with either CuSO4 or n-CuO. Enhanced photoactivity (as measured by methylene blue decay) in both CuSO4/n-TiO2 and n-CuO/n-TiO2 mixtures compared to single-component solutions explains the amplified stress effects of the mixtures under SSI, but we were unable to directly measure an increase in the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the mixtures. Under environmental conditions that include light exposure, then, Cu/n-TiO2 mixtures exert amplified cellular stress exceeding that expected based on individual component effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100250
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Copper
  • Cu/n-TiO mixtures
  • Nano-TiO
  • Phototoxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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