Cerium oxide nanoparticles (CeO2 NPs) have been shown to have significant interactions in plants. Previous study reported the specific-species phytotoxicity of CeO2 NPs by lettuce (Lactuca sativa), but their physiological impacts and vivo biotransformation are not yet well understood, especially in relative realistic environment. Butterhead lettuce were germinated and grown in potting soil for 30 days cultivation with treatments of 0, 50, 100, 1000 mg CeO2 NPs per kg soil. Results showed that lettuce in 100 mg·kg-1 treated groups grew significantly faster than others, but significantly increased nitrate content. The lower concentrations treatment had no impact on plant growth, compared with the control. However, the higher concentration treatment significantly deterred plant growth and biomass production. The stress response of lettuce plants, such as Superoxide dismutase (SOD), Peroxidase (POD), Malondialdehyde(MDA) activity was disrupted by 1000 mg·kg-1 CeO2 NPs treatment. In addition, the presence of Ce (III) in the roots of butterhead lettuce explained the reason of CeO2 NPs phytotoxicity. These findings demonstrate CeO2 NPs modification of nutritional quality, antioxidant defense system, the possible transfer into the food chain and biotransformation in vivo.