Maize roots and shoots show distinct profiles of oxidative stress and antioxidant defense under heavy metal toxicity

AbdElgawad, Hamada, Gaurav Zinta, Badreldin A. Hamed, Samy Selim, Gerrit Beemster, Wael N. Hozzein, Mohammed A. M. Wadaan, Han Asard, and Walid Abuelsoud. "Maize roots and shoots show distinct profiles of oxidative stress and antioxidant defense under heavy metal toxicity." Environmental Pollution 258 (2020): 113705.


Heavy metal accumulation in agricultural land causes crop production losses worldwide. Metal homeostasis within cells is tightly regulated. However, homeostasis breakdown leads to accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Overall plant fitness under stressful environment is determined by coordination between roots and shoots. But little is known about organ specific responses to heavy metals, whether it depends on the metal category (redox or non-redox reactive) and if these responses are associated with heavy metal accumulation in each organ or there are driven by other signals. Maize seedlings were subjected to sub-lethal concentrations of four metals (Zn, Ni, Cd and Cu) individually, and were quantified for growth, ABA level, and redox alterations in roots, mature leaves (L1,2) and young leaves (L3,4) at 14 and 21 days after sowing (DAS). The treatments caused significant increase in endogenous metal levels in all organs but to different degrees, where roots showed the highest levels. Biomass was significantly reduced under heavy metal stress. Although old leaves accumulated less heavy metal content than root, the reduction in their biomass (FW) was more pronounced. Metal exposure triggered ABA accumulation and stomatal closure mainly in older leaves, which consequently reduced photosynthesis. Heavy metals induced oxidative stress in the maize organs, but to different degrees. Tocopherols, polyphenols and flavonoids increased specifically in the shoot under Zn, Ni and Cu, while under Cd treatment they played a minor role. Under Cu and Cd stress, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and dehydroascorbate reductase (DHAR) activities were induced in the roots, however ascorbate peroxidase (APX) activity was only increased in the older leaves. Overall, it can be concluded that root and shoot organs specific responses to heavy metal toxicity are not only associated with heavy metal accumulation and they are specialized at the level of antioxidants to cope with.



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