Interaction of γ-Fe2O3 nanoparticles with Citrus maxima leaves and the corresponding physiological effects via foliar application
BACKGROUNDNutrient-containing nanomaterials have been developed as fertilizers to foster plant growth and agricultural yield through root applications. However, if applied through leaves, how these nanomaterials, e.g. γ-Fe2O3 nanoparticles (NPs), influence the plant growth and health are largely unknown. This study is aimed to assess the effects of foliar-applied γ-Fe2O3 NPs and their ionic counterparts on plant physiology of Citrus maxima and the associated mechanisms.
RESULTSNo significant changes of chlorophyll content and root activity were observed upon the exposure of 20-100 mg/L γ-Fe2O3 NPs and Fe(3+). In C. maxima roots, no oxidative stress occurred under all Fe treatments. In the shoots, 20 and 50 mg/L γ-Fe2O3 NPs did not induce oxidative stress while 100 mg/L γ-Fe2O3 NPs did. Furthermore, there was a positive correlation between the dosages of γ-Fe2O3 NPs and Fe(3+) and iron accumulation in shoots. However, the accumulated iron in shoots was not translocated down to roots. We observed down-regulation of ferric-chelate reductase (FRO2) gene expression exposed to γ-Fe2O3 NPs and Fe(3+) treatments. The gene expression of a Fe(2+) transporter, Nramp3, was down regulated as well under γ-Fe2O3 NPs exposure. Although 100 mg/L γ-Fe2O3 NPs and 20-100 mg/L Fe(3+) led to higher wax content, genes associated with wax formation (WIN1) and transport (ABCG12) were downregulated or unchanged compared to the control.
CONCLUSIONSOur results showed that both γ-Fe2O3 NPs and Fe(3+) exposure via foliar spray had an inconsequential effect on plant growth, but γ-Fe2O3 NPs can reduce nutrient loss due to their the strong adsorption ability. C. maxima plants exposed to γ-Fe2O3 NPs and Fe(3+) were in iron-replete status. Moreover, the biosynthesis and transport of wax is a collaborative and multigene controlled process. This study compared the various effects of γ-Fe2O3 NPs, Fe(3+) and Fe chelate and exhibited the advantages of NPs as a foliar fertilizer, laying the foundation for the future applications of nutrient-containing nanomaterials in agriculture and horticulture. Graphical abstract γ-Fe2O3 NPs exposed on plants via foliar spray and genes associated with the absorption and transformation of iron, as well as wax synthesis and secretion in Citrus maxima leaves.
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