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Exogenous IAA treatment enhances phytoremediation of soil contaminated with phenanthrene by promoting soil enzyme activity and increasing microbial biomass


In this study, we aimed to confirm that indole-3-acetic acid promotes plant uptake of phenanthrene (PHE), stimulates the activity of soil enzymes or microflora, and thereby accelerates the dissipation of PHE in soil. Four treatments were evaluated: PHE-contaminated soil planted with (1) ryegrass (T0), (2) ryegrass and supplemented with 1 mg kg−1 indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) (T1), (3) ryegrass and supplemented with 5 mg kg−1 IAA (T5), and (4) ryegrass and supplemented with 10 mg kg−1 IAA (T10). After 30 days, PHE concentrations were lower for all treatments and the removal rate was 70.19, 89.17, 91.26, and 97.07 % for T0, T1, T5, and T10, respectively. PHE was only detected in the roots and not in the shoots. IAA facilitated the accumulation of PHE in the roots, and plants subjected to the T10 treatment had the highest levels. Exogenous IAA stimulated soil peroxidase activity in a dose-dependent manner, whereas soil polyphenoloxidase activity was not significantly increased, except in T10. Soil microbial biomass also increased in response to IAA treatment, particularly in T10. Furthermore, phospholipid fatty acid analysis showed that IAA treatment increased microbial biomass and alleviated environmental stress. Gram-positive bacteria are largely responsible for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon degradation, and we found that the ratio of gram-positive to gram-negative bacteria in the soil significantly increased as the IAA concentrations increased (P < 0.05). Correlation analysis indicated that the increase in soil microbial biomass, enzyme activity, and plant uptake of PHE promotes removal of PHE from the soil.

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This research was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation (No. 41101292, 41371469), the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (No. BK2011655), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. KYZ201516), and the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions (PAPD).

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Correspondence to Li Xu.

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Responsible editor: Yi-Ping Chen

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The content of different fatty acids in soils subjected to different IAA treatments. The relative retention time (RRT) (data not shown) was calculated in relationship to the retention time of the internal standard (19:0). The content of fatty acids, expressed as means (± S.D.) (n = 3). ND, not detected. (DOC 67 kb)

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Li, W., Wang, D., Hu, F. et al. Exogenous IAA treatment enhances phytoremediation of soil contaminated with phenanthrene by promoting soil enzyme activity and increasing microbial biomass. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23, 10656–10664 (2016).

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  • Indole-3-acetic acid
  • Ryegrass
  • Microbial community
  • Phenanthrene
  • Phospholipid fatty acid analysis
  • Phytoremediation