, 18:110 | Cite as

Bioaccumulation and physiological effects of mercury in Pteris vittata and Nephrolepis exaltata

  • Jian Chen
  • Safwan Shiyab
  • Fengxiang X. Han
  • David L. Monts
  • Charles A. Waggoner
  • Zhimin Yang
  • Yi Su


Anatomical, histochemical and biochemical approaches were used to study mercury uptake and phytotoxicity as well as anti-oxidative responses in two species of ferns [Chinese brake fern (Pteris vittata) and Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)], grown in a hydroponic system. The roots of both cultivars accumulated large amounts of mercury, but exhibited limited mercury translocation to shoots. Mercury exposure led to more pronounced phytotoxicity accompanied by stronger oxidative stress in the shoots of P. vittata than in N. exaltata. N. exaltata established a more effective anti-oxidative system against mercury-induced oxidative stress than did P. vittata. The activity of anti-oxidative enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione reductase) increased. The reduced ascorbate (ASA) and oxidized ascorbate (DHA) are regulated. Mercury exposure led to an increase in the concentration of glutathione (GSH) in both fern species. The present study suggests that N. exaltata is more tolerant to mercury exposure than P. vittata, which has been also reported to be more tolerant to arsenic exposure. N. exaltata may thus have potential for phytostabilization of soils or phytofiltration of waste water contaminated with mercury.


Mercury Phytotoxicity Oxidative stress Pteris vittata Nephrolepis exaltata Phytoremediation 



We thank Ms. Yunju Xia and Mr. Dean W. Patterson for chemical analyses. We also gratefully acknowledge the electronic microscopy study assistance provided by Ms. Amanda M. Lawrence. This research is supported by U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Technology through Cooperative Agreement DE-FC01-06EW-07040.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jian Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Safwan Shiyab
    • 2
  • Fengxiang X. Han
    • 2
    • 3
  • David L. Monts
    • 2
    • 4
  • Charles A. Waggoner
    • 2
  • Zhimin Yang
    • 1
  • Yi Su
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, College of Life ScienceNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Institute for Clean Energy Technology (ICET)Mississippi State UniversityStarkvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant and Soil SciencesMississippi State University Mississippi StateStarkvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Physics & AstronomyMississippi State UniversityStarkvilleUSA

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