The presence and release of nanoparticles (NPs) into the environment have important implications for human health and the environment. A critical aspect of the risk assessment of nanoparticles is to understand the interactions of manufactured nanoparticles with plants. In this study, the uptake and distribution characteristics of two types of ceria nanoparticles with sizes of ca. 7 nm and 25 nm in cucumber plants were investigated using a radiotracer method and other techniques. With increasing concentration of the nanoparticles, concentration dependent absorption by the plant roots was noticed, but the majority of the particles only loosely adhered to the root surface. The seedlings treated with 7 nm ceria particles showed significantly higher ceria contents in both roots and shoots than those exposed to 25 nm ceria particles at all test concentrations (2, 20, and 200 mg L−1). Only very limited amounts of ceria nanoparticles could be transferred from the roots to shoots because the entry of nanoparticles into the roots was difficult. However, the results of tissue distributions of ceria nanoparticles in the plants and two dimensional distributions of the particles in the leaves imply that once they have entered into the vascular cylinder, ceria nanoparticles could move smoothly to the end of the vascular bundle along with water flow. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first detailed study of uptake and distribution of metal oxide nanoparticles in plants.
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