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ACS Nano. 2012 Nov 27;6(11):9943-50. doi: 10.1021/nn303543n. Epub 2012 Oct 29.

Biotransformation of ceria nanoparticles in cucumber plants.

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  • 1Key Laboratory for Biological Effects of Nanomaterials and Nanosafety, Institute of High Energy Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China.


Biotransformation is a critical factor that may modify the toxicity, behavior, and fate of engineered nanoparticles in the environment. CeO(2) nanoparticles (NPs) are generally recognized as stable under environmental and biological conditions. The present study aims to investigate the biotransformation of CeO(2) NPs in plant systems. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images show needlelike clusters on the epidermis and in the intercellular spaces of cucumber roots after a treatment with 2000 mg/L CeO(2) NPs for 21 days. By using a soft X-ray scanning transmission microscopy (STXM) technique, the needlelike clusters were verified to be CePO(4). Near edge X-ray absorption fine structure (XANES) spectra show that Ce presented in the roots as CeO(2) and CePO(4) while in the shoots as CeO(2) and cerium carboxylates. Simulated studies indicate that reducing substances (e.g., ascorbic acids) played a key role in the transformation process and organic acids (e.g., citric acids) can promote particle dissolution. We speculate that CeO(2) NPs were first absorbed on the root surfaces and partially dissolved with the assistance of the organic acids and reducing substances excreted by the roots. The released Ce(III) ions were precipitated on the root surfaces and in intercellular spaces with phosphate, or form complexes with carboxyl compounds during translocation to the shoots. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report confirming the biotransformation and in-depth exploring the translocation process of CeO(2) NPs in plants.

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