, Volume 182, Issue 2, pp 287-300

Copper toxicity in young maize (Zea mays L.) plants: effects on growth, mineral and chlorophyll contents, and enzyme activities

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Changes in the growth parameters and in enzyme activities were studied in roots and leaves of 14-days old maize grown in a nutrient solution containing various copper concentrations (i.e. 0.01 to 10 μM). A significant decrease in root and leaf biomass was only found at 10 μM Cu. In contrast, changes in several enzyme activities occured at lower copper concentrations in the solution, corresponding to different threshold values which are lower than those observed for growth parameters. Peroxidase (POD) activity significantly increased in all investigated plant organs (i.e. 3rd-leaf, 4th-leaf and roots) in relation to their copper content. Additionally, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G-6-PDH), and isocitrate dehydrogenase (ICDH) activities decreased in the leaves, especially in the 4th-leaf. However, the activity of malic enzyme (ME), G-6-PDH, glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) and ICDH increased with the copper content in roots. According to the relationship between POD activity and copper content, the toxic critical value was set at 26 mg Cu per kg dry matter (DM) in roots and 21 mg Cu per kg DM in the 3rd-leaf. In roots, a new isoenzyme of peroxidase appeared for copper content above 12.6 mg Cu kg DM−1. Measurement of enzyme activity, especially that of POD and Cu-specific changes in the (iso)peroxidase pattern, might be used as biomarkers to assess the phytotoxicity for maize grown on copper-contaminated substrata.