Nanomaterials toxicity: Reproducing the environment in a chip
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) play an important role in the life of every cell, including cellular defense and signaling mechanisms. Continuous and quantitative ROS sensing can provide valuable information about the cell state, but it remains a challenge to measure. Here, we introduce a multi-layered microfluidic chip with an integrated optical sensor for the continuous sensitive detection of extracellular hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), one of the most stable ROS. This platform includes hydraulically controlled microvalves and microsieves, which enable the precise control of toxicants and complex exposure sequences. In particular, we use this platform to study the dynamics of toxicity-induced ROS generation in the green microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii during short-term exposures, recovery periods, and subsequent re-exposures. Two cadmium-based toxicants with distinct internalization mechanisms are used as stress inducers: CdSe/ZnS quantum dots (Qdots) and ionic cadmium (Cd2+). Our results show the quantitative dynamics of ROS generation by the model microalga, the recovery of cell homeostasis after stress events and the cumulative nature of two consecutive exposures. The dissolution of quantum dots and its possible influence on toxicity and H2O2 depletion is discussed. The obtained insights are relevant from ecotoxicological and physiological perspectives.