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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 32 No. 4, p. 1356-1364
    Received: June 25, 2002

    * Corresponding author(s): baa7@cornell.edu
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Environmental Cadmium Levels Increase Phytochelatin and Glutathione in Lettuce Grown in a Chelator-Buffered Nutrient Solution

  1. Elizabeth A. Maier,
  2. Rosalyn D. Matthews,
  3. Jennifer A. McDowell,
  4. Rebecca R. Walden and
  5. Beth A. Ahner *
  1. Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY 14853


Phytochelatins are enzymatically synthesized peptides involved in metal detoxification and have been measured in plants grown at very high Cd concentrations, but few studies have examined the response of plants at lower environmentally relevant Cd concentrations. Using an ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)–buffered nutrient medium, we have varied Cd exposure and measured phytochelatin and glutathione concentrations in romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. var. longifolia Lam. var. Parris Island) grown in a flow-through hydroponic (FTH) system. Very low free ionic Cd (10−9.6 M) increased average phytochelatin concentrations above those of controls, and increasing Cd resulted in increased phytochelatin production, though increases were tissue dependent. Glutathione concentrations also increased with increasing Cd. In other standard hydroponic experiments, the media were manipulated to vary total Cd concentration while the ionic Cd was fixed. We found that the total amount of Cd (primarily EDTA bound) in the medium altered thiol production in roots, whereas thiols in leaves remained constant. The Cd uptake into roots and translocation to old leaves was also influenced by the total concentration in the medium. Cadmium in all tissues was lower and in some tissues thiol concentrations were higher than in FTH-grown plants grown in identical medium, suggesting that nutrient delivery technique is also an important variable. Though phytochelatin and glutathione production can be sensitive to changes in bioavailable Cd, thiol concentrations will not necessarily reflect the Cd content of the plant tissues.

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Copyright © 2003. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.32:1356–1364.