Plant and Soil

, Volume 404, Issue 1–2, pp 193–207 | Cite as

How do roots of the metal-resistant perennial bush Zygophyllum fabago cope with cadmium and zinc toxicities?

  • Isabelle Lefèvre
  • Katarina Vogel-Mikuš
  • Iztok Arčon
  • Stanley LuttsEmail author
Regular Article


Background and aims

Zygophyllum fabago is a perennial species tolerating high concentrations of Cd and Zn through protection of photosynthetically active leaves and regulation of Cd and Zn translocation from the roots to the shoots. This study aimed to assess metabolites involved in detoxification of those heavy metals in roots in relation to their coordination.


Zn and Cd K-edge extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) spectroscopy measurements were performed on root samples from plants exposed for 2 and 4 weeks to 10 μM CdCl2 or 50 μM ZnSO4, and compounds involved in osmotic adjustment, protection of cellular structures and management of oxidative status were determined.


Cd was mainly coordinated with thiol groups (77 %) while a minor part was ascribed to complexation with carboxyl and hydroxyl groups. In Zn-treated plants, Zn–O/N–C coordination was predominant (86 %) and only 14 % was coordinated to thiol groups. Phytochelatins increased in response to Cd but remained unaffected in Zn-treated roots. Conversely, polyamines accumulate in Zn-treated plants only. Heavy metals did not compromise root water or oxidative status.


Roots of Z. fabago are able to cope with Cd and Zn accumulation through efficient complexation processes which differ between Cd and Zn but are, for each element, similar to those previously recorded for photosynthetically active tissues.


Heavy metal Phytoremediation Speciation X-ray spectroscopy 







Extended X-ray absorption fine structure


Reduced glutathione


Oxidized glutathione




Osmotic potential












Total non-protein thiols




Water content


X-ray absorption near edge structure



This work was supported by the Slovenian Research Agency research programme (P1-0112 and P1-0212), by Elettra for provision of synchrotron radiation facilities at beamline XAFS (project 20115112) and by the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), Grenoble, France, for provision of synchrotron radiation facilities at beamline BM23 (project LS-2209) and three members of the experimental team acknowledge the financial support of ESRF for travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses related to the experiment LS-2209. The authors are grateful to Gleb Parakhonskiy and Olivier Mathon for assistance in using beamline BM23 and Giuliana Aquilanti and Luca Olivi for expert advice on beamline XAFS.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabelle Lefèvre
    • 1
  • Katarina Vogel-Mikuš
    • 2
    • 3
  • Iztok Arčon
    • 3
    • 4
  • Stanley Lutts
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Groupe de Recherche en Physiologie Végétale (GRPV), Earth and Life Institute – Agronomy (ELI-A)Université catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Biotechnical FacultyUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia
  3. 3.Jožef Stefan InstituteLjubljanaSlovenia
  4. 4.University of Nova GoricaNova GoricaSlovenia

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