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Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2019 Sep 4;184:109602. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2019.109602. [Epub ahead of print]

Phytotoxicity induced by engineered nanomaterials as explored by metabolomics: Perspectives and challenges.

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Key Laboratory of Pollution Processes and Environmental Criteria (Ministry of Education), Tianjin Key Laboratory of Environmental Remediation and Pollution Control, College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Nankai University, Tianjin, 300350, China.
Tianjin Key Laboratory of Agro-environment and Safe-product, Key Laboratory for Environmental Factors Control of Agro-product Quality Safety (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs), Institute of Agro-environmental Protection, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Tianjin 300191, China. Electronic address:


Given the wide applications of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) in various fields, the ecotoxicology of ENMs has attracted much attention. The traditional plant physiological activity (e.g., reactive oxygen species and antioxidant enzymes) are limited in that they probe one specific process of nanotoxicity, which may result in the loss of understanding of other important biological reactions. Metabolites, which are downstream of gene and protein expression, are directly related to biological phenomena. Metabolomics is an easily performed and efficient tool for solving the aforementioned problems because it involves the comprehensive exploration of metabolic profiles. To understand the roles of metabolomics in phytotoxicity, the analytical methods for metabolomics should be organized and discussed. Moreover, the dominant metabolites and metabolic pathways are similar in different plants, which determines the universal applicability of metabolomics analysis. The analysis of regulated metabolism will globally and scientifically help determine the ecotoxicology that is induced by ENMs. In the past several years, great developments in nanotoxicology have been achieved using metabolomics. However, many knowledge gaps remain, such as the relationships between biological responses that are induced by ENMs and the regulation of metabolism (e.g., carbohydrate, energy, amino acid, lipid and secondary metabolism). The phytotoxicity that is induced by ENMs has been explored by metabolomics, which is still in its infancy. The detrimental and defence mechanisms of plants in their response to ENMs at the level of metabolomics also deserve much attention. In addition, owing to the regulation of metabolism in plants by ENMs affected by multiple factors, it is meaningful to uniformly identify the key influencing factor.


Engineered nanomaterials; Metabolic pathway; Metabolomics; Phytotoxicity

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