Studies reveal metabolic imbalance behavior of microorganisms under nano-pollution stress

Schematic diagram of metabolic imbalance behavior of microorganisms under nano-pollution stress. Courtesy of the research team

Recently, the research team of the Provincial Key Laboratory of the Institute of Testing and Analysis of the Guangdong Academy of Sciences (Guangzhou Analysis and Testing Center, China) cooperated with Qilu University of Technology (Shandong Academy of Sciences) to study and reveal the metabolic imbalance mechanism of mode E. coli under typical nano-pollution stress. The study was published in Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering.

While nanomaterials bring convenience to human production and life, their waste entering the environment will cause pollution and potential threats to the ecosystem. Microorganisms are an important line of defense for organisms to deal with foreign pollution, but also an important regulator of physiological processes, exploring the metabolic imbalance behavior of microorganisms under the stress of nano-pollution can help assess the biological risk of nano-pollution.

Based on a non-targeted metabolomics research approach, the researchers revealed growth and metabolic imbalance behaviors of cultured E. coli in vitro under the pollution stress of six typical nanomaterials. They applied different nano-contaminations (nanoplastics, nano-silver, nano-titanium dioxide, nano-zinc oxide, carbon quantum dots, semiconductor quantum dots) in in vitro cultures of E. coli, and the pollution exposure dose setting correlated with the environmental concentration level of the pollutant (1 μg/mL).

Studies have shown that different nano-pollution exposures show significant differences in the growth inhibition of model E. coli, with nanoplastics, zinc oxide and semiconductor quantum dots having stronger toxic effects and carbon quantum dots having the lowest toxicity. Under the exposure of different nanomaterials, the metabolic dysfunction characteristics and disturbed metabolic pathways of mode E. coli also showed significant differences, and the metabolic disorders of E. coli under nano-zinc oxide exposure were the most significant. Peptidoglycan biosynthesis, cysteine and methionine metabolism, arginine and proline metabolism are the three metabolic pathways in which E. coli are generally and significantly disturbed under the exposure of various nanomaterials.

The research work has been funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Guangdong Provincial Key Area R&D Program, the Guangdong Provincial Basic and Applied Basic Research Fund, the Guangzhou Science and Technology Program, and the Guangdong Provincial Enterprise Science and Technology Commissioner Special Project. (Source: China Science Daily, Zhu Hanbin, Yin Shuhui)

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