Enhanced cadmium accumulation in maize roots—the impact of organic acids

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Courtesy of Springer

Low molecular weight organic acids are important components of root exudates and therefore, knowledge regarding the mechanisms of cadmium (Cd) uptake and distribution within plants under the influence of organic acids, is necessary for a better understanding of Cd behavior in the plant–soil system. In this study, acetic and malic acids increased the uptake of Cd by maize (Zea mays L. cv. TY2) roots and enhanced Cd accumulation in shoots under hydroponic conditions. Concentration-dependent net Cd influx in the presence and absence of organic acids could be resolved into linear and saturable components. The saturable component followed Michaelis–Menten kinetics, which indicated that Cd uptake across the plasma membrane was transporter-mediated. While the K m values were similar, the V max values in the presence of acetic and malic acids were respectively 6.0 and 3.0 times that of the control. Zinc transporters were the most probable pathways for Cd accumulation. It was hypothesized that Cd(II)–organic acid complexes associated with the root zone, could decompose and liberate Cd2+ for subsequent absorption by maize roots; and that in the layer of the roots or within the root free space, depletion of Cd2+ was buffered by the presence of Cd(II)–organic acid complexes. Plant response to elevated Cd levels involved overproduction of organic acids in maize roots as a resistance mechanism to alleviate Cd toxicity.
Keywords: Cadmium - Maize (Zea mays) - Organic acids - Transporter - Uptake

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