, Volume 185, Issue 3-4, pp 113-122

Effects of heavy metals on pollen tube growth and ultrastructure

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The influence of different concentrations of the heavy metals cadmium (Cd2+), cobalt (Co2+), copper (Cu2+), iron (Fe2+ and Fe3+), mercury (Hg2+), manganese (Mn2+), and zinc (Zn2+), plus aluminium (Al3+) (a toxic metal in polluted areas), on pollen germination and tube growth ofLilium longiflorum was investigated using light microscopy. Effects could be observed with 3 μM and 100 μM of heavy metal, added as chloride salts to the medium. Cd2+, Cu2+, and Hg2+, showed the greatest toxicity, whereas germination and growth rate was less affected by Mn2+. Affected tubes showed swelling of the tip region. Tubes treated with Cd2+, Co2+, Fe2+, Fe3+, Hg2+, and Mn2+ were also prepared for ultrastructural studies. In all cases, the main effect was abnormal cell wall organization, mostly at the tip, where round, fibrillar aggregates, the shape and size of secretory Golgi vesicles were formed. They built up a loose network which could be up to 10 μm thick compared to untreated tubes where the cell wall was composed of thin layers of long fibrils and about 100 nm thick. Cd2+ was the only metal which produced effects at the intracellular level: organelle distribution within the tip region appeared disorganized. A general mechanism of heavy metal action on pollen tube growth is discussed.