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    Molecular toxicity of cerium oxide nanoparticles to the freshwater alga <i>Chlamydomonas reinhardtii</i> is associated with supra-environmental exposure concentrations

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    <p>Ceria nanoparticles (NPs) are widely used as fuel catalysts and consequently are likely to enter the environment. Their potential impacts on. biota at environmentally relevant concentrations, including uptake and toxicity, remain to be elucidated and quantitative data on which to assess risk are sparse. Therefore, a definitive assessment of the molecular and phenotypic effects of ceria NPs was undertaken, using well-characterised mono-dispersed NPs as their toxicity is likely to be higher, enabling a conservative hazard assessment. Unbiased transcriptomics and metabolomics approaches were used to investigate the potential toxicity of tightly constrained 4–5 nm ceria NPs to the unicellular green alga, <i>Chlamydomonas reinhardtii</i>, a sentinel freshwater species. A wide range of exposure concentrations were investigated from predicted environmental levels, to support hazard assessment, to supra-environmental levels to provide insight into molecular toxicity pathways. Ceria NPs were internalised into intracellular vesicles within <i>C. reinhardtii</i>, yet caused no significant effect on algal growth at any exposure concentration. Molecular perturbations were only detected at supra-environmental ceria NP-concentrations, primarily down-regulation of photosynthesis and carbon fixation with associated effects on energy metabolism. For acute exposures to small mono-dispersed particles, it can be concluded there should be little concern regarding their dispersal into the environment for this trophic level.</p
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