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The response of the accumulator plants Noccaea caerulescens, Noccaea goesingense and Plantago major towards the uranium

Burger, A.; Weidinger, M.; Baumann, N.; Vesely, A.; Lichtscheidl, I.

Uranium (U) is a naturally occurring metal; its environmental levels can be increased due to processes in the nuclear industry and fertilizer production. The transfer of U in the food chain from plants is associated with deleterious chemical and radiation effects. To date, limited information is available about U toxicity on plant physiology. This study investigates the responses of metal-accumulating plants to different concentrations of U. The plants Noccaea caerulescens and Noccaea goesingense are known as metal hyperaccumulators and therefore could serve as candidates for the phytoremediation of radioactive hotspots; Plantago major is a widely used pharmaceutical plant that pioneers polluted grounds and therefore should not contain high concentrations of toxic elements. The experimental plants were grown hydroponically at U concentrations between 1 μM and 10 mM. The content of U and essential elements was analyzed in roots and leaves by ICP-MS. The amount of accumulated U was influenced by its concentration in the hydroponics. Roots contained most of the metal, whereas less was transported up to the leaves, with the exception of N. goesingense in a medium concentration of U. U also influenced the nutrient profile of the plants. We localized the U in plant tissues using EDX in the SEM. U was evenly distributed in roots and leaves of Noccaea species, with one exception in the roots of N. goesingense, where the central cylinder contained more U than the cortex. The toxicity of U was assessed by measuring growth and photosynthetic parameters. While root biomass of N. caerulescens was not affected by U, root biomass of N. goesingense decreased significantly at high U concentrations of 0.1 and 10 mM and root biomass of P. major decreased at 10 mM U. Dry weight of leaves was decreased at different U concentrations in the three plant species; a promotive effect was observed in N. caerulescens at lowest concentration offered. Chlorophyll a fluorescence was not affected or negatively affected by U in both Noccaea species, whereas in Plantago also positive effects were observed. Our results show that the impact of U on Plantago and Noccaea relates to its external concentration and to the plant species. When growing in contaminated areas, P. major should not be used for medicinal purpose. Noccaea species and P. major could immobilize U in their rhizosphere in hotspots contaminated by U, and they could extract limited amounts of U into their leaves.

Keywords: Accumulation; Chemotoxicity; Distribution; Localization; Uptake; Uranium

Publ.-Id: 32738