Graphene oxide induced pH alteration, iron overload and subsequent oxidative damage in rice (Oryza. sativa L.): a new mechanism of nanomaterial phytotoxicity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Wenhe Luo
  • Fazel Abdolahpur Monikh
  • Changjian Xie
  • Zhiyong Zhang


The mechanism of graphene-based nanomaterial (GBM)-induced phytotoxicity and its association with the GBM physicochemical properties are not yet fully understood. The present study compared the effects of graphene oxide (GO) and reduced GO (rGO) on rice seedling growth under hydroponic conditions for 3 weeks. GO at 100 and 250 mg/L reduced shoot biomass (by 25 and 34%, respectively) and shoot elongation (by 17 and 43%, respectively) and caused oxidative damage, while rGO exhibited no overt effect except for the enhancement of the antioxidant enzyme activities, suggesting that the surface oxygen content is a critical factor affecting the biological impacts of GBMs. GO treatments (100 and 250 mg/L) enhanced the iron (Fe) translocation and caused excessive Fe accumulation in shoots (2.2 and 3.6 times higher than control), which was found to be the main reason for the oxidative damage in shoots. GO-induced acidification of the nutrient solution was the main driver for the Fe overload in plants. In addition to the antioxidant regulators, the plants triggered other pathways to defend against the Fe toxicity via downregulation of the Fe transport associated metabolites (mainly coumarins and flavonoids). Plant root exudates facilitated the reduction of toxic GO to nontoxic rGO, acting as another route for plant adaption to GO-induced phytotoxicity. This study provides new insights into the mechanism of the phytotoxicity of GBMs. It also provides implications for the agricultural application of GBM that the impacts of GBMs on the uptake of multiple nutrients in plants should be assessed simultaneously and reduced forms of GBMs are preferential to avoid toxicity.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3181-3190
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
Early online date21 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2020


  • Nanotoxicity, environmental toxicology agriculture