Plant and Soil

, Volume 279, Issue 1–2, pp 41–50 | Cite as

Stress Responses of Zea mays to Cadmium and Mercury

  • Rubén Rellán-Álvarez
  • Cristina Ortega-Villasante
  • Ana Álvarez-Fernández
  • Francisca F. del Campo
  • Luis E. Hernández


A hydroponic experiment was carried out to characterize the oxidative stress responses of maize seedlings (Zea mays L. cv. Dekalb DK604) to cadmium (Cd) and mercury (Hg). Plants were grown hydroponically for 7 days in a nutrient solution supplemented with several concentrations of Cd and Hg: 0.0 (control), 6 or 30 μM. Growth was inhibited by both metals. The effect was more severe in plants exposed to Hg. Oxidative stress was caused by the exposure to the metals, as quantified by malondialdehyde and carbonyl accumulation, by-products of lipid peroxidation and protein oxidation, respectively. The activity of ascorbate peroxidase (APX) and superoxide dismutase (SOD), enzymes involved in the scavenging of reactive oxygen species, were measured upon metal treatment. We found an activation of a cytosolic APX isoform, as identified by using a specific polyclonal antiserum. However, there were negligible changes in SOD activity. Analysis of thiol-peptides revealed that at 6 μM Cd a remarkable increase in root reduced glutathione (GSH) content occurred, and little effect on the relative content of oxidised glutathione (GSSG) was observed. However, at 30 μM Cd and in plants exposed to 6 and 30 μM of Hg, GSH root content either remained stable or decreased significantly, while the proportion of GSSG increased. Moreover, only Cd was able to induce accumulation of phytochelatins at both assayed concentrations. Apparently, Hg was more toxic than Cd, as inferred from the magnitude of the changes found in the physiological parameters tested.


cadmium heavy metal sensitivity mercury oxidative stress Zea mays 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rubén Rellán-Álvarez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cristina Ortega-Villasante
    • 1
  • Ana Álvarez-Fernández
    • 2
  • Francisca F. del Campo
    • 1
  • Luis E. Hernández
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Plant Physiology, Department of BiologyUniversidad Autónoma of MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Estación Experimental Aula Dei-CSIC Avd. Montañana 1005ZaragozaSpain

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