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Metabolomics Reveals Cu(OH)2 Nanopesticide-Activated Anti-oxidative Pathways and Decreased Beneficial Antioxidants in Spinach Leaves


While the use of nanopesticides in modern agriculture continues to increase, their effects on crop plants are still poorly understood. Here, 4 week old spinach plants grown in an artificial medium were exposed via foliar spray to Cu(OH)2 nanopesticide (0.18 and 18 mg/plant) or Cu ions (0.15 and 15 mg/plant) for 7 days. A gas chromatography-time-of-flight-mass spectrometry metabolomics approach was applied to assess metabolic alterations induced by Cu(OH)2 nanopesticide in spinach leaves. Exposure to Cu(OH)2 nanopesticide and copper ions induced alterations in the metabolite profiles of spinach leaves. Compared to the control, exposure to 18 mg of Cu(OH)2 nanopesticide induced significant reduction (29-85%) in antioxidant or defense-associated metabolites including ascorbic acid, α-tocopherol, threonic acid, β-sitosterol, 4-hydroxybutyric acid, ferulic acid, and total phenolics. The metabolic pathway for ascorbate and aldarate was disturbed in all exposed spinach plants (nanopesticide and Cu2+). Cu2+ is responsible for the reduction in antioxidants and perturbation of the ascorbate and aldarate metabolism. However, nitrogen metabolism perturbation was nanopesticide-specific. Spinach biomass and photosynthetic pigments were not altered, indicating that metabolomics can be a rapid and sensitive tool for the detection og earlier nanopesticide effects. Consumption of antioxidants during the antioxidant defense process resulted in reduction of the nutritional value of exposed spinach.

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