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Cross-species transcriptomic signatures identify mechanisms related to species sensitivity and common responses to nanomaterials

An Author Correction to this article was published on 01 July 2022

This article has been updated


Physico-chemical characteristics of engineered nanomaterials are known to be important in determining the impact on organisms but effects are equally dependent upon the characteristics of the organism exposed. Species sensitivity may vary by orders of magnitude, which could be due to differences in the type or magnitude of the biochemical response, exposure or uptake of nanomaterials. Synthesizing conclusions across studies and species is difficult as multiple species are not often included in a study, and differences in batches of nanomaterials, the exposure duration and media across experiments confound comparisons. Here three model species, Danio rerio, Daphnia magna and Chironomus riparius, that differ in sensitivity to lithium cobalt oxide nanosheets are found to differ in immune-response, iron–sulfur protein and central nervous system pathways, among others. Nanomaterial uptake and dissolution does not fully explain cross-species differences. This comparison provides insight into how biomolecular responses across species relate to the varying sensitivity to nanomaterials.

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Fig. 1: Differential gene expression.
Fig. 2: Cross-species pathway impacts.
Fig. 3: Fe–S and related genes.
Fig. 4: Role of uptake, species.

Data availability

RNA-sequencing data are accessible through the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s Gene Expression Omnibus via accession numbers GSE161036 (chironomids), GSE174016 (daphnids) and GSE179495 (zebrafish).

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CHE-2001611, the NSF Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology (R.J.H and R.D.K.). The Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology is part of the Centers for Chemical Innovation Program. This project used the UWM Great Lakes Genomics Center sequencing and bioinformatics services. UWM Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocols followed 20-21 no. 01 and 20-21 no. 50.

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Authors and Affiliations



B.J.C., N.J.N. and R.D.K. conceived the experiment and its design. B.J.C., N.J.N. and E.B. carried out the LCO nanosheet exposures. A.S. prepared the RNA-Seq libraries. O.M. and A.A.M. conducted bioinformatic quality-control analysis and RNA-Seq data analysis. B.J.C. carried out additional downstream analyses, including PLS-DA, pathway classification and enrichment analysis. E.D.L. and R.J.H. provided nanomaterial synthesis and characterization. Y.S. and J.C.W. carried out elemental analysis. B.J.C. and R.D.K. wrote and edited the paper, with contributions and support from all co-authors. Research was supervised by R.D.K.

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Correspondence to Rebecca D. Klaper.

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Supplementary graphical abstract, Figs. 1–5, Tables 1 and 2, methods and discussion.

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Curtis, B.J., Niemuth, N.J., Bennett, E. et al. Cross-species transcriptomic signatures identify mechanisms related to species sensitivity and common responses to nanomaterials. Nat. Nanotechnol. 17, 661–669 (2022).

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