Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 13, pp 13592–13601 | Cite as

How can the natural radiation background affect DNA integrity in angiosperm plant species at different altitudes in Rila Mountain (Southwest Bulgaria)?

  • Gabriele JovtchevEmail author
  • Alexander Stankov
  • Ivanka Ravnachka
  • Svetla Gateva
  • Dimitar Dimitrov
  • Nikolai Tyutyundzhiev
  • Nina Nikolova
  • Christo Angelov
Research Article


Climate changes and anthropogenic factors are the main factors contributing to the destruction of natural ecosystems. The aim of this study was to investigate the extent to which wild plants adapt to UV, gamma background, and gross beta activity, as well as the possible damage that can be recorded in plants growing at different altitudes in Rila Mountain. We used physicochemical, cytogenetic, and molecular methods. Our investigations were done on the nine plant species characteristic of the ecosystems in Rila Mountain at three altitudes: 1500 m, 1782 m, and 2925 m. The registered beta activity in the plants did not depend on the altitude of the habitats. Our results showed that wild plant species differ in their tolerance to the combined effect of UV and IR radiation as well as climate factors. The genotype plays a more important role than the difference in the habitat altitude. The comet assay adapted by us for these plant species showed that the DNA of Epilobium angustifolium L. (Onagraceae) growing at 1500 m was more susceptible to damage than that of Dactylis glomerata L. (Poaceae). Both these species growing at 1782 m did not show any increase in DNA damage evaluated as the level of DNA migration. The level of DNA damage in Pedicularis orthantha Griseb. (Orobanchaceae) at 2925 m was comparable to that at a lower altitude. Regarding the formation of micronuclei, grass species were more sensitive to UV- and IR-induced DNA damage than cereals. Our data imply the existence of specific protective mechanisms developed by plants to overcome DNA damage induced by stress factors.


UV radiation Gross beta activity Altitude DNA damage Angiosperm species Plants adaptation 


Funding information

The present study was supported by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education, Youth and Science under contract grant number DN 04/1 entitled: “Study of the combined effects of the natural radioactive background, UV radiation, climate change and cosmic rays on model groups of plant and animal organisms in mountain ecosystems.”

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11356_2019_4872_MOESM1_ESM.doc (147 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 147 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecosystem Research, Environmental Risk Assessment and Conservation Biology, Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem ResearchBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria
  2. 2.BEO-Moussala, Institute for Nuclear Researches and Nuclear EnergyBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria
  3. 3.National Museum of Natural HistoryBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria
  4. 4.Central Laboratory of Solar Energy and New Energy SourcesBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria

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