Plant cell responses to heavy metals: molecular and physiological aspects
The effect of lead, cadmium and cooper on protein pattern, free radicals and antioxidant enzymes in root of Lupinus luteus L. were investigated. Heavy metals inhibited growth of lupin roots, which was accompanied by increased synthesis and accumulation of a 16 kDa polypeptide (Przymusiński et al. 1991 Biochem. Physiol. Pflanzen., 187:51–57). This component has been earlier identified as immunologically related to Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase (Przymusiński et al. 1995 Env.Exp.Bot., 35:485–495). However, more detailed study revealed that this stress-stimulated protein is composed of four to six polypeptides of different electrophoretic mobility. The most abundant polypeptides of the 16kDa region were found to be closely homologous to pathogen related proteins. The number and intensity of these polypeptides was highly variable in roots of individual seedlings, which suggests that they might represent separate allelic forms. Electron paramagnetic spectra revealed that at low lead concentrations the amplitude of the first derivative was similar to the control and distinctly increased at higher metal concentrations. On the other hand, at the lower lead concentrations the activity of antioxidant enzymes increased, whereas at higher metal doses the enzyme activities did not raise further (SOD) or even dropped (CAT, APOX). This implies that the responses of antioxidant system to lead is dose-dependent stimulated by low metal concentrations, whereas at the higher metal level the free radical emission is beyond the quenching capacity of antioxidant enzymes, which in turn might contribute to the reduced root growth. The effect of various heavy metals: Pb²⁺, Cd²⁺ and Cu²⁺ on phytochelatins and antioxidant enzymes depends on the kind of metal ion. Pb²⁺ and Cd²⁺ stimulated the PCs formation whereas Cu²⁺ was not effective. On the other hand, in root exposed to Cu the activity of catalase (CAT) was the highest as was the production of H₂O₂. The strong oxidative effect of Cu²⁺ ions which were not complexed by PCs suggests that these peptides might by involved in the cellular defense system by binding excessive heavy metal ions. On the basis of our results it can be concluded that in lupin roots exposed to heavy metals there is a complex defense system against metal phytotoxicity, which comprises of specific proteins, antioxidant enzymes and phytochelatins.
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