Cadmium Accumulation by Plants of Brassicaceae Family and Its Connection with Their Primary and Secondary Metabolism

Part of the Environmental Pollution book series (EPOL, volume 21)


The mustard family – Brassicaceae – is well known as family of plants, metallophytes, which are able to accumulate wide range of heavy metals and metalloids, especially zinc and cadmium, but also nickel, thallium, chromium and selenium. Ecological importance of this process consists partially in plants themselves to survive negative environmental conditions. There are two basic different strategies, how to survive these conditions – accumulation of heavy metals in plants tissues with different intensity in individual cell types, but also organs, which is partially given by chemical composition of cell walls, and ability to synthesize special defensive – detoxification compounds rich on thiol groups – glutathione and phytochelatins, which are able to bind heavy metals and transport them to the “secure” cell compartment – vacuole. The second principle is based on ability to exclude heavy metals. Role of secondary metabolites rich on sulphur in detoxification of heavy metals is still discussed with unclear conclusions. Members of Brassicaceae family, especially genera Thlaspi and Brassica, are well-known hyperaccumulators of heavy metals with possible utilization in phytoremediation technologies. In this review chapter, mechanisms of cadmium uptake and transport and its deposition in various plant cells and tissues are discussed with respect with possible utilization in phytoremediation. In addition, role of special sulphur metabolites, which are typical for plants of Brassicaceae family – glucosinolates – in detoxification of heavy metals is discussed.


Brassicaceae Cadmium Glucosinolates Metallophytes 



ATP-binding cassette transporter


Adenosine 5′-phosphosulphate


Adenosine triphosphate


Buthionine sulphoximine


Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid


γ-Glutamyl cystein synthetase


γ-Glutamyl cystein


Glutathione reduced


Glutathione oxidized




Nitrilotriacetic acid






Phytochelatin synthase


Reactive oxygen species



Dedicated to United Nation Environment Program: Lead and Cadmium Initiatives. Financial support from INCHEMBIOL MSM0021622402 and NANIMEL GA CR 102/08/1546 and CEITEC CZ.1.05/1.1.00/02.0068 is highly acknowledged. We would like to thank to Petr Koudelka for the help with writing of this article.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Drugs, Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical SciencesBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Faculty of Agronomy/Central European Institute of TechnologyMendel University in Brno/Brno University of TechnologyBrnoCzech Republic
  3. 3.BrnoCzech Republic
  4. 4.Department of Plant Biology, Faculty of AgronomyMendel University in BrnoBrnoCzech Republic

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