American Chemical Society
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Methylation and Demethylation of Emerging Contaminants in Plants

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-01-19, 11:29 authored by Yaxin Xiong, Qingyang Shi, Jun Li, Nathan Darlucio Sy, Daniel Schlenk, Jay Gan
Many contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) have reactive functional groups and may readily undergo biotransformations, such as methylation and demethylation. These transformations have been reported to occur during human metabolism and wastewater treatment, leading to the propagation of CECs. When treated wastewater and biosolids are used in agriculture, CECs and their transformation products (TPs) are introduced into soil-plant systems. However, little is known about whether transformation cycles, such as methylation and demethylation, take place in higher plants and hence affect the fate of CECs in terrestrial ecosystems. In this study, we explored the interconversion between four common CECs (acetaminophen, diazepam, methylparaben, and naproxen) and their methylated or demethylated TPs in Arabidopsis thaliana cells and whole wheat seedlings. The methylation–demethylation cycle occurred in both plant models with demethylation generally taking place at a greater degree than methylation. The transformation rate of demethylation or methylation was dependent on the bond strength of R-CH3, with demethylation of methylparaben or methylation of acetaminophen being more pronounced. Although not explored in this study, these interconversions may exert influences on the behavior and biological activity of CECs, particularly in terrestrial ecosystems. The study findings demonstrated the prevalence of transformation cycles between CECs and their methylated or demethylated TPs in higher plants, contributing to a more complete understanding of risks of CECs in the human-wastewater-soil-plant continuum.