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Environmental Stresses Increase Photosynthetic Disruption by Metal Oxide Nanomaterials in a Soil-Grown Plant.


Despite an increasing number of studies over the past decade examining the interactions between plants and engineered nanomaterials (ENMs), very few have investigated the influence of environmental conditions on ENM uptake and toxicity, particularly throughout the entire plant life cycle. In this study, soil-grown herbaceous annual plants (Clarkia unguiculata) were exposed to TiO2, CeO2, or Cu(OH)2 ENMs at different concentrations under distinct light and nutrient levels for 8 weeks. Biweekly fluorescence and gas exchange measurements were recorded, and tissue samples from mature plants were analyzed for metal content. During peak growth, exposure to TiO2 and CeO2 decreased photosynthetic rate and CO2 assimilation efficiency of plants grown under high light and nutrient conditions, possibly by disrupting energy transfer from photosystem II (PSII) to the Calvin cycle. Exposure Cu(OH)2 particles also disrupted photosynthesis but only in plants grown under the most stressful conditions (high light, limited nutrient) likely by preventing the oxidation of a primary PSII reaction center. TiO2 and CeO2 followed similar uptake and distribution patterns with concentrations being highest in roots followed by leaves then stems, while Cu(OH)2 was present at highest concentrations in leaves, likely as ionic Cu. ENM accumulation was highly dependent on both light and nutrient levels and a predictive regression model was developed from these data. These results show that abiotic conditions play an important role in mediating the uptake and physiological impacts of ENMs in terrestrial plants.

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