Engineered nanomaterial-mediated changes in the metabolism of terrestrial plants

Mehrnaz Hatami, Khalil Kariman, Mansour Ghorbanpour

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    124 Citations (Scopus)


    Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) possess remarkable physicochemical characteristics suitable for different applications in medicine, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, energy, cosmetics and electronics. Because of their ultrafine size and high surface reactivity, ENMs can enter plant cells and interact with intracellular structures and metabolic pathways which may produce toxicity or promote plant growth and development by diverse mechanisms. Depending on their type and concentration, ENMs can have positive or negative effects on photosynthesis, photochemical fluorescence and quantum yield as well as photosynthetic pigments status of the plants. Some studies have shown that ENMs can improve photosynthetic efficiency via increasing chlorophyll content and light absorption and also broadening the spectrum of captured light, suggesting that photosynthesis can be nano-engineered for harnessing more solar energy. Both up- and down-regulation of primary metabolites such as proteins and carbohydrates have been observed following exposure of plants to various ENMs. The potential capacity of ENMs for changing the rate of primary metabolites lies in their close relationship with activation and biosynthesis of the key enzymes. Several classes of secondary metabolites such as phenolics, flavonoids, and alkaloids have been shown to be induced (mostly accompanied by stress-related factors) in plants exposed to different ENMs, highlighting their great potential as elicitors to enhance both quantity and quality of biologically active secondary metabolites. Considering reports on both positive and negative effects of ENMs on plant metabolism, in-depth studies are warranted to figure out the most appropriate ENMs (type, size and optimal concentration) in order to achieve the desirable effect on specific metabolites in a given plant species. In this review, we summarize the studies performed on the impacts of ENMs on biosynthesis of plant primary and secondary metabolites and mention the research gaps that currently exist in this field.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)275-291
    Number of pages17
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2016


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