The rapid growth of nanotechnology and the high demand for nanomaterial use have greatly increased the risk of particle release into the environment. Understanding nanomaterial interactions with crop species and their associated microorganisms is critical to food safety and security. In the current study, tomato was inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi and subsequently exposed to 12, 24, or 36 mg/kg of 2- or 15-nm silver nanoparticles (Ag-NPs). Mycorrhizal (M) and non-mycorrhizal (NM) tomatoes exposed to 36 mg/kg of 2-nm Ag-NPs accumulated 1300 and 1600 μg/g silver in their tissues, respectively. Mycorrhizal plants accumulated 14% less silver compared to non-mycorrhizal plants. To begin to understand the mechanisms by which plants accumulate NPs, the expression of two aquaporin channel genes, the plasma membrane intrinsic protein (PIP) and the tonoplast membrane intrinsic protein (TIP), and one potassium channel (KC) gene were studied. In non-mycorrhizal plants, the expression of KC, PIP, and TIP was eight, five, and nine times higher than the control, respectively. These expressions for mycorrhizal plants were 5.8, 3.5, and 2 times higher than controls, respectively. The expression of KC and PIP, which are located on the plasma membrane, was 3.5 and 2.5, respectively, times higher than TIP, which is located on the tonoplast. PIP expression was significantly higher in NM tomatoes exposed to 12 mg/kg of 2-nm Ag-NPs compared to M plants. These results show that mycorrhizal colonization decreases Ag accumulation in NP-exposed plants and also moderates changes in expression level of membrane transport proteins.
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