, Volume 250, Issue 1, pp 53–62 | Cite as

Lead (Pb)-induced biochemical and ultrastructural changes in wheat (Triticum aestivum) roots

  • Gurpreet Kaur
  • Harminder Pal Singh
  • Daizy Rani Batish
  • Ravinder Kumar Kohli
Original Article


The focus of the present study was to explore lead (Pb)-induced metabolic alterations vis-à-vis ultrastructural changes in wheat roots to establish Pb toxicity syndrome at a structural level. Pb (50–500 μM) enhanced malondialdehyde (an indicator of lipid peroxidation) and hydrogen peroxide content, and electrolyte leakage, thereby suggesting reactive oxygen species-induced disruption of membrane integrity and oxidative stress in wheat roots. The activities of superoxide dismutases and catalases enhanced upon Pb exposure, whereas those of ascorbate and guaiacol peroxidases declined. Pb-induced metabolic disruption was manifested in significant alterations in wheat root ultrastructure as analyzed by transmission electron microscopy. Pb caused thinning of cell wall (at 50 μM), formation of amoeboid protrusions and folds and intercellular spaces, and appearance of lesions and nicks/breaks (at ≥250 μM Pb). Pb was deposited along the cell walls as dark precipitates. At ≤250 μM Pb, the number of mitochondria increased significantly, whereas structural damage in terms of change of shape and disintegration was observed at ≥ 250 μM Pb. Pb reduced the size of nucleoli and induced puff formation (at 250 μM), resulting in complete disintegration/disappearance of nucleolus at 500 μM. The study concludes that Pb inhibited wheat root growth involving an ROS-mediated oxidative damage vis-à-vis the ultrastructural alterations in cell membrane and disruption of mitochondrial and nuclear integrity.


Pb toxicity Oxidative damage Biochemical alterations Root ultrastructural changes Cell wall disintegration Mitochondrial damage 



Gurpreet Kaur is thankful to University Grants Commission, New Delhi, India, for financial support in the form of research fellowship. We are grateful to the in-charge, Electron Microscopy Facility at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, for necessary help in getting the samples analyzed by TEM.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gurpreet Kaur
    • 1
  • Harminder Pal Singh
    • 1
  • Daizy Rani Batish
    • 2
  • Ravinder Kumar Kohli
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Environment StudiesPanjab UniversityChandigarhIndia
  2. 2.Department of BotanyPanjab UniversityChandigarhIndia

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