Unravelling mechanisms of bacterial quorum sensing disruption by metal-based nanoparticles

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Nanoparticles are released in the environment causing a negative impact in several ecosystems such asmicrobial communities. To adapt to environmental changes some bacteria use a collective behaviour ruled by a cell-to-cell communication process called quorum sensing (QS). In this study, the impact of some of the most employed metal-based nanoparticles, such as zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnONPs), titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2NPs) and silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) on bacterial QS has been assessed by using two different strains of the model organism Chromobacterium violaceumand by employing different experimental conditions. TiO2NPswere tested with and without applying a previous step of UV-irradiation while the effect of AgNPs of two diameter sizes (40 and 60 nm) and twodifferent coating agents (PVP and citrate)was evaluated. Results evidenced that all nanoparticles produced a significant effect on violacein production and therefore, in the QS system. ZnONPs mainly disrupted the QS steps related to signal perception and response whereas TiO2NPs and AgNPs affected the autoinducer biosynthesis. AgNPs with the smallest size and citrate as capping agent produced the most deleterious effect while the impact of TiO2NPs was not affected by UV irradiation. The present study provides new insights into the mechanisms by which these commonly employed metal-based nanoparticles disturb bacterial QS-based communication and clearly evidences the potential risk of releasing nanoparticles to the environment, especially formicrobial communities which play a key role in many environmental and technological processes.