Silver Nanoparticles and Wheat Roots: A Complex Interplay

Agricultural soils are major sinks of silver nanoparticles in the environment, and crops are directly exposed to these emerging contaminants. A clear picture of their chemical transformations, uptake and transport mechanisms, and phytotoxic impacts is still lacking. In this work, wheat plants were exposed to pristine metallic (Ag-NPs) and sulfidized (Ag2S-NPs) silver nanoparticles and ionic Ag. Data on Ag distribution and speciation, phytotoxicity markers, and gene expression were studied. A multi-technique and multi-scale approach was applied, combining innovating tools at both the laboratory and synchrotron. Various chemical transformations were observed on the epidermis and inside roots, even for Ag2S-NPs, leading to an exposure to multiple Ag forms, which likely evolve over time. Genes involved in various functions including oxidative stress, defense against pathogens, and metal homeostasis were impacted in different ways depending upon the Ag source. This study illustrates the complexity of the toxicity pattern for plants exposed to Ag-NPs, the necessity of monitoring several markers to accurately evaluate the toxicity, and the interest of interpreting the toxicity pattern in light of the distribution and speciation of Ag.