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      Plant responses to abiotic stresses: heavy metal-induced oxidative stress and protection by mycorrhization

      Journal of Experimental Botany
      Oxford University Press (OUP)

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          The aim of this review is to assess the mode of action and role of antioxidants as protection from heavy metal stress in roots, mycorrhizal fungi and mycorrhizae. Based on their chemical and physical properties three different molecular mechanisms of heavy metal toxicity can be distinguished: (a) production of reactive oxygen species by autoxidation and Fenton reaction; this reaction is typical for transition metals such as iron or copper, (b) blocking of essential functional groups in biomolecules, this reaction has mainly been reported for non-redox-reactive heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury, (c) displacement of essential metal ions from biomolecules; the latter reaction occurs with different kinds of heavy metals. Transition metals cause oxidative injury in plant tissue, but a literature survey did not provide evidence that this stress could be alleviated by increased levels of antioxidative systems. The reason may be that transition metals initiate hydroxyl radical production, which can not be controlled by antioxidants. Exposure of plants to non-redox reactive metals also resulted in oxidative stress as indicated by lipid peroxidation, H(2)O(2) accumulation, and an oxidative burst. Cadmium and some other metals caused a transient depletion of GSH and an inhibition of antioxidative enzymes, especially of glutathione reductase. Assessment of antioxidative capacities by metabolic modelling suggested that the reported diminution of antioxidants was sufficient to cause H(2)O(2) accumulation. The depletion of GSH is apparently a critical step in cadmium sensitivity since plants with improved capacities for GSH synthesis displayed higher Cd tolerance. Available data suggest that cadmium, when not detoxified rapidly enough, may trigger, via the disturbance of the redox control of the cell, a sequence of reactions leading to growth inhibition, stimulation of secondary metabolism, lignification, and finally cell death. This view is in contrast to the idea that cadmium results in unspecific necrosis. Plants in certain mycorrhizal associations are less sensitive to cadmium stress than non-mycorrhizal plants. Data about antioxidative systems in mycorrhizal fungi in pure culture and in symbiosis are scarce. The present results indicate that mycorrhization stimulated the phenolic defence system in the Paxillus-Pinus mycorrhizal symbiosis. Cadmium-induced changes in mycorrhizal roots were absent or smaller than those in non-mycorrhizal roots. These observations suggest that although changes in rhizospheric conditions were perceived by the root part of the symbiosis, the typical Cd-induced stress responses of phenolics were buffered. It is not known whether mycorrhization protected roots from Cd-induced injury by preventing access of cadmium to sensitive extra- or intracellular sites, or by excreted or intrinsic metal-chelators, or by other defence systems. It is possible that mycorrhizal fungi provide protection via GSH since higher concentrations of this thiol were found in pure cultures of the fungi than in bare roots. The development of stress-tolerant plant-mycorrhizal associations may be a promising new strategy for phytoremediation and soil amelioration measures.

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          Journal of Experimental Botany
          Oxford University Press (OUP)
          May 15 2002
          : 53
          : 372
          : 1351-1365
          © 2002


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