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Plant Physiol. 2001 Nov;127(3):887-98.

Cadmium-induced changes in antioxidative systems, hydrogen peroxide content, and differentiation in Scots pine roots.

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Forstbotanisches Institut, Abteilung I: Forstbotanik und Baumphysiologie, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Büsgenweg 2, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.


To investigate whether Cd induces common plant defense pathways or unspecific necrosis, the temporal sequence of physiological reactions, including hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) production, changes in ascorbate-glutathione-related antioxidant systems, secondary metabolism (peroxidases, phenolics, and lignification), and developmental changes, was characterized in roots of hydroponically grown Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) seedlings. Cd (50 microM, 6 h) initially increased superoxide dismutase, inhibited the systems involved in H(2)O(2) removal (glutathione/glutathione reductase, catalase [CAT], and ascorbate peroxidase [APX]), and caused H(2)O(2) accumulation. Elongation of the roots was completely inhibited within 12 h. After 24 h, glutathione reductase activities recovered to control levels; APX and CAT were stimulated by factors of 5.5 and 1.5. Cell death was increased. After 48 h, nonspecific peroxidases and lignification were increased, and APX and CAT activities were decreased. Histochemical analysis showed that soluble phenolics accumulated in the cytosol of Cd-treated roots but lignification was confined to newly formed protoxylem elements, which were found in the region of the root tip that normally constitutes the elongation zone. Roots exposed to 5 microM Cd showed less pronounced responses and only a small decrease in the elongation rate. These results suggest that in cells challenged by Cd at concentrations exceeding the detoxification capacity, H(2)O(2) accumulated because of an imbalance of redox systems. This, in turn, may have triggered the developmental program leading to xylogenesis. In conclusion, Cd did not cause necrotic injury in root tips but appeared to expedite differentiation, thus leading to accelerated aging.

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