Responses of morphological, physiological, and biochemical characteristics of maize (Zea mays L.) seedlings to atrazine stress

  • Shagufta Bibi
  • Sarzamin Khan
  • Nadia Taimur
  • Muhammad K. Daud
  • Azizullah AzizullahEmail author


Atrazine is a synthetic herbicide applied to control broadleaf weeds in different crops. In many parts of the world, atrazine is mainly applied for controlling weeds in maize fields. However, studies on the possible adverse effects of atrazine on maize crop can hardly be found in literature. The present study was therefore conducted to evaluate the effect of atrazine on different characteristics of maize seedlings including germination, growth, chlorophyll contents, soluble sugars, proteins and proline levels, ions accumulation, cell viability, and cell injury. In addition, the effects of atrazine on reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation and antioxidant enzymes activities in maize seedlings were estimated. It was found that at high concentration, atrazine slightly but significantly inhibited seed germination and growth of maize seedlings. Light-harvesting pigments (chlorophylls a and b, and total carotenoids) exhibited a higher sensitivity to atrazine and were negatively impacted by atrazine at doses above 50 ppm. Atrazine caused an increase in soluble sugars at all tested doses and decrease in soluble proteins at the highest tested dose. Exposure of maize seedlings to atrazine resulted in an increased cell injury and decreased cell viability. Atrazine did not affect the concentration of Na+, K+, and Ca2+ ions in maize seedlings to any greater extent; however, some minor changes were observed in some cases. An increase in the stress marker, proline, was found upon exposure to atrazine. The observed effects of atrazine in maize seedlings can be attributed to oxidative stress as revealed by an increase in H2O2 content and higher activities of peroxidase (POD), superoxide dismutase (SOD), and catalase (CAT) enzymes in atrazine-treated seedlings. The present investigation concludes that atrazine has the potential to adversely affect germination and growth of maize seedlings by inducing oxidative stress that causes increased cell injury and decreased cell viability as well as impairs the concentration of light-harvesting pigments.


Atrazine Maize Phytotoxicity Growth Chlorophyll Antioxidants Ions 



Authors acknowledge all staff at the Department of Botanical & Environmental Sciences and Department of Biotechnology & Genetic Engineering, KUST for their help.

Funding information

The study was financially supported by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan through the Startup Research Grant Program.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical statement

This study did not involve any human or animal samples.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shagufta Bibi
    • 1
  • Sarzamin Khan
    • 2
  • Nadia Taimur
    • 1
  • Muhammad K. Daud
    • 3
  • Azizullah Azizullah
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Botanical and Environmental SciencesKohat University of Science and TechnologyKohatPakistan
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryUniversity of SwabiAnbarPakistan
  3. 3.Department of Biotechnology and Genetic EngineeringKohat University of Science and TechnologyKohatPakistan

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