Plant Growth Regulation

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 93–105 | Cite as

N-acetyl-cysteine alleviates Cd toxicity and reduces Cd uptake in the two barley genotypes differing in Cd tolerance

  • Hongyan Sun
  • Xuhui Zhang
  • Xiaoyan He
  • Imrul Mosaddek Ahmed
  • Fangbin Cao
  • Guoping Zhang
  • Feibo Wu
Original paper


A hydroponic experiment was carried out to study the physiological mechanisms of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) in mitigating cadmium (Cd) toxicity in two barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) genotypes, Dong 17 (Cd-sensitive) and Weisuobuzhi (Cd-tolerant). Addition of 200 μM NAC to a culture medium containing 5 μM Cd (Cd + NAC) markedly alleviated Cd-induced growth inhibition and toxicity, maintained root cell viability, and dramatically depressed O 2 ·− and ·OH, and malondialdehyde accumulation, significantly reduced Cd concentration in leaves and roots, especially in the sensitive genotype Dong 17. External NAC counteracted Cd-induced alterations of certain antioxidant enzymes, e.g., brought root superoxide dismutase and glutathione reductase, leaf/root peroxidase and glutathione peroxidase activities of the both genotypes down towards the control level, but elevated Cd-stress-depressed leaf catalase in Dong 17 and root ascorbate peroxidase activities in both genotypes. NAC counteracted Cd-induced alterations in amino acids and microelement contents. Furthermore, NAC significantly reduced Cd-induced damage to leaf/root ultrastructure, e.g. the shape of chloroplasts in plants treated with Cd + NAC was relatively normal with well-structured thylakoid membranes and parallel pattern of lamellae but less osmiophilic plastoglobuli compared with Cd alone treatment; nuclei of root cells were better formed and chromatin distributed more uniformly in both genotypes. These results suggested that under Cd stress, NAC may protects barley seedlings against Cd-induced damage by directly and indirectly scavenging reactive oxygen species and by maintaining stability and integrity of the subcellular structure.


Antioxidative metabolism Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) Cadmium (Cd) N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) Ultrastructure Programmed cell death 



Ascorbate peroxidase






Glutathione peroxidase


Glutathione reductase


Reduced glutathione




N-acetyl cysteine


Superoxide radical


Hydroxyl radical


Potassium phosphate buffer


Sodium phosphate buffer


Guaiacol peroxidase


Reactive oxygen species


Superoxide dismutase


Soil plant analysis development


Thiobarbituric acid



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30571097, 31071365), the National 863 program (2012AA101105), the PhD Programs Foundation of Ministry of Education of China (J20120066), and the Key Research Foundation of Science and Technology Department of Zhejiang Province of China (2012C12902-2).

Supplementary material

10725_2014_9906_MOESM1_ESM.doc (156 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 156 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hongyan Sun
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xuhui Zhang
    • 1
  • Xiaoyan He
    • 1
  • Imrul Mosaddek Ahmed
    • 1
  • Fangbin Cao
    • 1
  • Guoping Zhang
    • 1
  • Feibo Wu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Agronomy, College of Agriculture and Biotechnology, Zijingang CampusZhejiang UniversityHangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.College of Chemical and Biological EngineeringTaiyuan University of Science and TechnologyTaiyuanPeople’s Republic of China

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