Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 22, Issue 10, pp 7495–7507 | Cite as

Responses of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) to growth in naphthalene-contaminated sand: xenobiotic stress versus water stress

  • Anuluxshy Balasubramaniyam
  • Mark M. Chapman
  • Patricia J. Harvey
Research Article


The adaptations of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) arising from growth in naphthalene-contaminated sand (0.8 g kg−1 sand dry weight (dw)) were investigated in the contexts of xenobiotic stress and water stress. The transfer of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) across the root endodermis was investigated using the hydrophobic Nile red stain as a PAH homologue. Nile red was applied to the epidermis of a living root to visualise uptake into the root through the transpiration stream, and the distance travelled by the stain into the root tissues was investigated using epi-fluorescence microscopy (Nikon Eclipse 90i). The results showed that the Nile red applied to the roots grown in naphthalene-contaminated sand was unable to penetrate the roots beyond the endodermis, whereas those grown in ‘clean’ sand showed evidence of uptake into the xylem vessels beyond the endodermis. Furthermore, partial collapse was observed in the cortex of naphthalene-treated roots, suggesting drought stress. Interestingly, the treated plants showed visual resilience to drought stress whilst the leaves of the control plants showed signs of wilting.


Epi-fluorescent microscopy Naphthalene contamination Nile red uptake PAH homologue Root structural adaptations Scanning electron microscopy Tall fescue Water stress Xenobiotic stress 



The authors thank Dr. Debbie Rees for her support and help throughout this experimental study which is greatly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anuluxshy Balasubramaniyam
    • 1
  • Mark M. Chapman
    • 1
  • Patricia J. Harvey
    • 1
  1. 1.School of ScienceUniversity of GreenwichChatham MaritimeUK

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