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Nanotechnology may damage plant DNA.

In Brief: Incorporating nanotechnology into biotechnology for crop breeding hit a snag recently. Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Massachusetts (UMass) at Amherst recently discovered that engineered nanoparticles can accumulate within plants and damage their DNA.

Chemists have been successful at crafting three-dimensional molecular structures, a breakthrough that unites biotechnology and nanotechnology. Scientists believe that nanoparticles can serve as "magic bullets" containing herbicides, chemicals, or genes that target particular plant parts to release their content. Nanocapsules can enable effective penetration of herbicides through cuticles and tissues, allowing slow, constant release of active substances.

However, the NIST/UMass research team showed that, under laboratory conditions, cupric oxide nanoparticles have the capacity to enter plant root cells and generate many mutagenic DNA base lesions. This is a problem because cupric oxide is an oxidizing agent. Oxidation has been shown to induce DNA damage in certain organisms.

Researchers first exposed radishes and two ryegrasses to both cupric oxide nanoparticles and larger-sized cupric oxide particles (bigger than 100 nanometers) as well as to simple copper ions. For the radishes, twice as many lesions were induced in plants exposed to nanoparticles as in those exposed to the larger particles. Additionally, the cellular uptake of copper from the nanoparticles was significantly greater than the uptake of copper from the larger particles. The DNA damage profiles for the ryegrasses differed from the radish profiles, indicating that nanoparticle-induced DNA damage is dependent on plant species and nanoparticle concentration.

For more information, contact Colleen Scherer, managing editor, AgProfessional, csherer@vancepublishing.com. [c]2012 Vance Publishing Corp.
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Title Annotation:update
Author:Scherer, Colleen
Publication:Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World
Date:Jul 1, 2012
Words:265
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