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1H NMR and GC-MS Based Metabolomics Reveal Defense and Detoxification Mechanism of Cucumber Plant under Nano-Cu Stress


Because copper nanoparticles are being increasingly used in agriculture as pesticides, it is important to assess their potential implications for agriculture. Concerns have been raised about the bioaccumulation of nano-Cu and their toxicity to crop plants. Here, the response of cucumber plants in hydroponic culture at early development stages to two concentrations of nano-Cu (10 and 20 mg/L) was evaluated by proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H NMR) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) based metabolomics. Changes in mineral nutrient metabolism induced by nano-Cu were determined by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Results showed that nano-Cu at both concentrations interferes with the uptake of a number of micro- and macro-nutrients, such as Na, P, S, Mo, Zn, and Fe. Metabolomics data revealed that nano-Cu at both levels triggered significant metabolic changes in cucumber leaves and root exudates. The root exudate metabolic changes revealed an active defense mechanism against nano-Cu stress: up-regulation of amino acids to sequester/exclude Cu/nano-Cu; down-regulation of citric acid to reduce the mobilization of Cu ions; ascorbic acid up-regulation to combat reactive oxygen species; and up-regulation of phenolic compounds to improve antioxidant system. Thus, we demonstrate that nontargeted (1)H NMR and GC-MS based metabolomics can successfully identify physiological responses induced by nanoparticles. Root exudates metabolomics revealed important detoxification mechanisms.

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