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Issue 9, 2020
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Interplay between engineered nanomaterials and microbiota

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The growing evidence of the microbiome's crucial role in human health and disease has prompted research on understanding the impacts of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) on commensal microorganisms. Accordingly, the number of studies addressing the ENM effects on intestinal microbiota has been rapidly increasing over the past few years. The focus on the gut microbiota is justified due to established metabolic and immunological functions of gut microbes, however, respiratory tract and skin microbiota also play important roles in host health and immunity. Here we review the composition and functions of microbiota inhabiting the major human organs that are prone to ENM exposure – skin, respiratory and digestive tract. We discuss the mechanisms of ENM actions relevant to physiological conditions and microbiota, and describe recently developed in vitro models for elucidating the ENM impacts on the gut microbiota. We find that studies pertinent to the oxygen levels prevailing in the digestive tract, are still limited. Finally, we analyze the results of in vivo studies conducted in vertebrate models – zebrafish, mice and rats – exposed to ENMs via ingestion. The relative abundances of bacterial phyla indicate that ENMs have a potential to modulate intestinal microbiota and induce harmful or beneficial effects in the host. Future perspectives include identification of the factors driving ENM-caused dysbiosis and the ENM impacts on microbiota with deviated composition, e.g., under compromised health conditions. Understanding the interplay between ENMs and the human microbiota is crucial for the continued development of nanomedicine and protection of human health against accidental exposure to hazardous ENMs.

Graphical abstract: Interplay between engineered nanomaterials and microbiota

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Article information

26 May 2020
20 Jul 2020
First published
21 Jul 2020

Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2020,7, 2454-2485
Article type
Critical Review

Interplay between engineered nanomaterials and microbiota

Y. Zhang, M. Mortimer and L. Guo, Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2020, 7, 2454
DOI: 10.1039/D0EN00557F

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