Plant and Soil

, Volume 326, Issue 1, pp 171–185

Synthesis of phytochelatins in vetiver grass upon lead exposure in the presence of phosphorus

  • Syam S. Andra
  • Rupali Datta
  • Dibyendu Sarkar
  • Konstantinos C. Makris
  • Conor P. Mullens
  • Shivendra V. Sahi
  • Stephan B. H. Bach
Regular Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11104-009-9992-2

Cite this article as:
Andra, S.S., Datta, R., Sarkar, D. et al. Plant Soil (2010) 326: 171. doi:10.1007/s11104-009-9992-2


In a hydroponic setting, we investigated the possible role of phytochelatins (metal-binding peptides) in the lead (Pb) tolerance of vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides L.). Pb was added to the nutrient medium at concentrations ranging from 0 to 1,200 mg L−1. Furthermore, we simulated the effect of soil phosphorus (P) on potentially plant available Pb by culturing vetiver grass in P-rich nutrient media. After 7 days of exposure to Pb, we evaluated the Pb uptake by vetiver grass. Results indicate that vetiver can accumulate Pb up to 3,000 mg kg−1 dry weight in roots with no toxicity. Formation of lead phosphate inhibited Pb uptake by vetiver, suggesting the need for an environmentally safe chelating agent in conjunction with phytoremediation to clean up soils contaminated with lead-based paint. Unambiguous characterization of phytochelatins (PCn) was possible using high pressure liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (LC-ESMS). Vetiver shows qualitative and quantitative differences in PCn synthesis between root and shoot. In root tissue from vetiver exposed to 1,200 mg Pb L-1, phytochelatins ranged from PC1 to PC3. Collision-induced dissociation of the parent ion allowed confirmation of each PCn based on the amino acid sequence. Possible Pb-PC1 and Pb2-PC1 complexes were reported in vetiver root at the highest Pb concentration. The data from these experiments show that the most probable mechanism for Pb detoxification in vetiver is by synthesizing PCn and forming Pb–PCn complexes.


HydroponicsLead-based paintLiquid chromatographyMass spectrometryPhytochelatinsPhytoremediationVetiver



Collision induced dissociation


Electrospray ionization mass spectrometry




High-performance liquid chromatography








Scanning electron microscopy

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Syam S. Andra
    • 1
  • Rupali Datta
    • 2
  • Dibyendu Sarkar
    • 3
  • Konstantinos C. Makris
    • 4
  • Conor P. Mullens
    • 5
  • Shivendra V. Sahi
    • 6
  • Stephan B. H. Bach
    • 5
  1. 1.Environmental Geochemistry LaboratoryUniversity of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.Biological SciencesMichigan Technological UniversityHoughtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Earth and Environmental StudiesMontclair State UniversityMontclairUSA
  4. 4.The Cyprus International Institute for the Environment and Public Health in association with the Harvard School of Public HealthNicosiaCyprus
  5. 5.Department of ChemistryUniversity of TexasSan AntonioUSA
  6. 6.Department of BiologyWestern Kentucky UniversityBowling GreenUSA