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Aluminum and Chromium Toxicity in Maize: Implications for Agronomic Attributes, Net Photosynthesis, Physio-Biochemical Oscillations, and Metal Accumulation in Different Plant Parts


Phytotoxic effects of a single heavy metal on different crops are widely reported; however, consequences of combined metal toxicity on maize are rarely investigated. In this study, a pot experiment was conducted to assess the phytotoxic effects both Al and Cr on morphophysiological and biochemical traits, photosynthetic gas exchange capacities, metal uptake, and translocation in different plant parts. Plants were exposed to Al3+ (100 μM), Cr6+ (100 μM), and Al3+ + Cr6+ (100 + 100 μM), and data were collected at pre- and post-silking stages while uncontaminated pots were served as control (Ck). Results depicted that both Al and Cr impaired maize growth and yield response and inhibited photosynthesis and gas exchange attributes i.e., transpiration, stomatal conductance, inter-cellular CO2, as well as water use efficiency (WUE) and intrinsic water use efficiency (WUEi). Moreover, Al and Cr toxicities caused lipid peroxidation and membrane damage while activated antioxidative defense system in terms of superoxide dismutase (SOD), peroxidaes (POD), and catalase (CAT) and mediated reduced glutathione contents (GSH). Increased proline and reduced protein contents were also observed with a combined metal toxicity. Interestingly, Cr proved to be more toxic than Al whereas affects were more apparent where both Al and Cr were applied simultaneously. Plant exposure to both Al and Cr increased metal contents in different plant parts, while maximum metal contents were recorded in roots followed by stem, leaves, corn ear, and grains. Overall severity in phytotoxic effects was observed as Al+Cr > Cr > Al > Ck. Additionally, values of combined application of both Al + Cr were higher than those of the linear sum of Al and Cr alone, suggesting that synergistic effects of Al + Cr were more toxic than their individual effects. Hence, combined metal toxicity proved more damaging for maize than individual metal stress.

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The present research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation Project (31271673), PR China.

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Correspondence to Longchang Wang.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Shakeel Ahmad Anjum and Umair Ashraf contributed equally to this work.

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Anjum, S.A., Ashraf, U., Khan, I. et al. Aluminum and Chromium Toxicity in Maize: Implications for Agronomic Attributes, Net Photosynthesis, Physio-Biochemical Oscillations, and Metal Accumulation in Different Plant Parts. Water Air Soil Pollut 227, 326 (2016).

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  • Antioxidant defense
  • Metal uptake
  • Maize
  • Metal toxicity
  • Photosynthesis
  • Reactive oxygen species