The synthesis of hybrid nanomaterials has greatly increased in recent years due to their special physical and chemical properties. However, information regarding the environmental toxicity associated with these chemicals is limited, in particular in the aquatic environment. In the present study, an experiment was performed in which the marine bivalve (Ruditapes decussatus) was exposed for 14days to 2 concentrations of zinc oxide-decorated Au nanoparticles (Au-ZnONPs: Au-ZnONP50=50μg/L; Au-ZnONP100=100μg/L). The stability and resistance of Au-ZnONPs in the natural seawater were assessed by combining transmission electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering. Inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy revealed uptake of these nanoparticles within clams and their ability to induce metallic deregulation. The results obtained indicate that Au-ZnONPs induce biochemical and histological alterations within either the digestive gland or gill tissues at high concentration. This was deduced from the significant increase in H2O2 level, superoxide dismutase and catalase activities and malondialdehyde content. Furthermore, the toxicity of Au-ZnO nanoparticles was linked with the increase of intracellular iron and calcium levels in both tissues. Histological alterations in gill and digestive gland were more pronounced with Au-ZnONP100 and this is likely related to oxidative mechanisms. Gill and digestive gland are differentially sensitive to Au-ZnONPs if the exposure concentration is higher than 50μg/L. In conclusion, the parameters considered here could constitute reliable biomarkers for evaluation of hybrid nanoparticles toxicity in environmental model organisms. In addition, based on the results obtained, gill and digestive gland of R. decussatus could be proposed as models to detect harmful effects of hybrid nanoparticles.
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