Effect of pH and citric acid on the growth, arsenic accumulation, and phytochelatin synthesis in Eupatorium cannabinum L., a promising plant for phytostabilization

  • Héctor González
  • Daniel Fernández-Fuego
  • Ana Bertrand
  • Aída GonzálezEmail author
Research Article


Heavy-metal contamination of soils has increased in the last decades due to anthropogenic and industrial activities. Arsenic is one of the pollutants that is commonly found in industrial soils and is toxic for both plants and humans. The pH of the soil or the culture medium is one of the most important factors that interferes with the bioavailability of this metalloid to the plant. The addition of chelating agents, such as citric acid (CA), can increase the absorption of As by plants. Therefore, the objective of this work is to study the effect of the pH and the exogenous addition of citric acid on the growth, As accumulation, and thiol compounds in Eupatorium cannabinum; this plant grows naturally in contaminated soils in Asturias, Spain, and has a potential use in phytoremediation. The results showed that E. cannabinum was able to tolerate As stress even at extreme pH values and accumulated a high amounts of As in its roots, which makes it a promising species for the phytostabilization of soils polluted with this metalloid. An addition of 20 mg CA L−1 led to increased biomass and As accumulation at acidic pH. In order to determine if thiolic compounds, such as phytochelatins, are involved in As accumulation and detoxification in E. cannabinum, we analyzed the synthesis of these compounds in the presence and absence of As and/or citric acid. Our results suggest that these thiolic compounds play a major role in As detoxification, since the presence of CA as a chelating agent reduced the amount of thiols necessary to cope with the toxicity caused by As.


Arsenic Citric acid pH Phytochelatins Phytostabilization 


Funding information

This work was supported by the project LIFE 11 ENV/ES/547. Fernández-Fuego D. was funded by fellowship Foundation for the promotion of Applied Scientific Research and Technology (FICYT).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Biología de Organismos y Sistemas, Facultad de BiologíaUniversidad de OviedoOviedoSpain
  2. 2.Instituto Universitario de Biotecnología de AsturiasOviedoSpain

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