Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 388–393 | Cite as

Reaction of spruce cells toward heavy metals and the influence of culture conditions

  • Peter Schröder
  • Claudia Fischer
Research Articles



Plant cell cultures may serve as biosensors for the detection of heavy metals and other toxic substances. Standard culture media and protocols are frequently utilised, but in these media no care is usually taken to control the influence of hormones and nutrients on the reaction of the enzymes or metabolites under consideration as parts of the sensor. The present paper investigates the influence of media composition on the reaction of spruce cells towards heavy metals.


Spruce cell cultures were grown in a standard medium, either i) alone, ii) containing 0.3% sucrose or iii) containing 3% sucrose and the hormones BAP and NAA. The cell cultures were then incubated in medium with fungal elicitor, H2O2, CdSO4 (50 to 500 µM), or, alternatively, with a standard heavy metal mixture containing 80 µM Na2HAsO4, 150 µM CdSO4 and 200 µM PbCl2.


Depending on the nutrient status and hormone availability, large differences in glutathione contents and the GSH/ GSSG ratio were observed. However, the cellular redox state seemed to remain more or less constant. Glutathione S-trans-ferase activity was determined with four substrates, and high induction rates for the conjugation of three substrates were observed when hormones were omitted from the media. 1,2-epoxy-nitrophenoxy-propane conjugation was highest in starving cells in the presence of hormones, showing a transient GST induction, with highest rates occurring after 16 hrs following incubation; the induction effect was lost after 24 hrs.


A medium containing 3 % sucrose and both hormones (BAP and NAA) appears to be most favourable for cellular growth as well as the expression of a basis level of detoxification enzymes and antioxidants. With this combination, early responses towards heavy metals at low concentration can be monitored.

Recommendations and Perspective

Plant cell cultures are valuable tools for the bioindication of heavy metals and toxic xenobiotics. If standard media and protocols are utilised, the influence of hormones and nutrients on the reaction of the biosensor have to be evaluated thoroughly.


H2O2 arsenic cadmium culture methods glutathione glutathione S-transferase heavy metals lead oxidative burst plant reactions spruce 


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Copyright information

© Ecomed Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Rhizosphere BiologyInstitute for Soil Ecology, GSF - National Research Center for Environment and HealthNeuherberg

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