Plant and Soil

, Volume 381, Issue 1–2, pp 25–34 | Cite as

Are the carboxyl groups of pectin polymers the only metal-binding sites in plant cell walls?

  • Nataly Meychik
  • Yuliya Nikolaeva
  • Maria Kushunina
  • Igor Yermakov
Regular Article


Background and Aims

Are the carboxyl groups of pectin polymers the only metal-binding sites in plant cell walls? To answer this question we investigated Cu2+ and Ni2+ -exchange capacities of isolated root cell walls of seven plant species. As the ionization degree of carboxyl groups and consequently their ability to bind metal ions is dependent upon the solution pH it is possible to reveal the predominant sites of metal binding at a certain pH.


Amounts of different ionogenic groups in the isolated cell walls was determined by potentiometric titration, Cu2+ and Ni2+ binding capacities – by measuring the amount of adsorbed metal ions after incubation in 1 mM CuCl2 or NiCl2 at different pHs.


Carboxyl groups of polygalacturonic acid (PGA) are the only Cu2+ and Ni2+ binding sites at pH < 5. At рН ≥ 5 the ratio between the amount of the metal bound and the amount of PGA carboxyl groups is >1 in some plant species, indicating the involvement of carboxyl groups of hydroxycinnamic acids (HCA) in Cu2+ and Ni2+ binding. HCA carboxyl groups in cell walls of grasses bind 40–85 % of total cell wall Cu2+ and Ni2+ at рН ≥ 5, but in dicotyledons their contribution does not exceed 45 % and varies widely between species.


Carboxyl groups of both polygalacturonic and hydroxycinnamic acids provide Cu2+ and Ni2+ adsorption sites in root cell walls. Their relative content depends on plant species, and ability to bind Cu2+ and Ni2+ – on the solution pH.


Root cell walls Cu2+ and Ni2+ -exchange capacity Polygalacturonic acid Hydroxycinnamic acids 



heavy metal cations

SCu (SNi)

Cu2+-(Ni2+-)exchange capacity of isolated cell walls


polygalacturonic acid


hydroxycinnamic acids


PGA (HCA) carboxyl groups content



The work was supported by the Russian Research Foundation (№ 14-14-00298).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nataly Meychik
    • 1
  • Yuliya Nikolaeva
    • 1
  • Maria Kushunina
    • 1
  • Igor Yermakov
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant Physiology, Faculty of BiologyMoscow State UniversityMoscowRussia

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