, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 92–102 | Cite as

Differential effects of nickel dosages on in vitro and in vivo seed germination and expression of a high affinity nickel-transport family protein (AT2G16800) in trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides)

  • Karolina M. Czajka
  • Paul Michael
  • Kabwe NkongoloEmail author


It has been demonstrated that a number of metals including mercury (Hg), zinc (Zn), cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), lead (Pb), copper (Cu), and nickel (Ni) decrease seed germination rates and plant growth. The threshold levels of metal toxicity on seed germination, plant development, and gene regulation have not been studied in detail. The main objective of this study was to assess in vitro and in vivo the effects of different doses of nickel on Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) seed germination and regulation of the high affinity nickel transporter family protein (AT2G16800) gene. The in vitro assays showed that Nickel completely inhibited seed germination even at the lowest concentration of 0.401 mg Ni per mL (in media) tested. However, when the same concentration of nickel (150 mg Ni per 1 kg of dry soil) was added to soil samples, during the vivo assays, almost all of the seeds germinated. Significant inhibition of seed germination was observed when soil samples were treated with at least 400 mg/kg of Ni. No damages were observed on growing seedlings treated with 150, 400, and 800 mg/kg of Ni. Only the highest dose of 1, 600 mg/kg resulted in visible leaf and stem damages and reduced growth on 75% of seedlings. A significant repression of the AT2G16800 gene was observed for the 400, 800, and 1600 mg/kg of nickel treatments compared to the water control with the lowest level of expression observed in samples treated with 800 mg/kg of Ni. Results of this study suggest that P. tremuloides populations will likely be sustainable for long term in sites that are highly contaminated with Ni including mining regions since the bioavailable amount of this metal is usually below 400 mg/kg in Canada.


Trembling aspen Populus tremuloides Nickel toxicity Seed germination AT2G16800 gene expression 



This study was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC). Thanks to Dr. Gabriel Theriault and Mrs. Charnelle Djeukam for technical assistance.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human subjects or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karolina M. Czajka
    • 1
  • Paul Michael
    • 2
  • Kabwe Nkongolo
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of BiologyLaurentian University, SudburyOntarioCanada
  2. 2.Biomolecular Sciences ProgramLaurentian University, SudburyOntarioCanada

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