Cadmium-induced rhizospheric pH dynamics modulated nutrient acquisition and physiological attributes of maize (Zea mays L.)

Abstract

Cadmium (Cd) is a highly mobile toxic element in soil-plant systems that interferes with plant growth and nutrient acquisition by modulations in the rhizospheric environment. The current study investigated the influence of maize roots on the medium pH, alterations in nutrient uptake, and impact on the plant’s physiological attributes under Cd stress. Among the nine maize cultivars, subjected to Cd stress (9.15 mg/kg of sand), one was identified as Cd tolerant (3062—Pioneer) and the second as Cd sensitive (31P41—Pioneer). The selected maize cultivars were grown in nutrient solutions supplemented with 0, 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 μM CdCl2 under controlled conditions and a starting pH of 6.0. The rhizospheric pH dynamics were monitored each day up to 3 days. Both cultivars caused medium basification; however, the response was different at low (10 and 20 μM) Cd treatments (sensitive cultivar caused medium basification) and at higher (50 μM) Cd treatment (tolerant cultivar caused medium basification). Furthermore, higher Cd was accumulated by the sensitive cultivar which was predominantly found in the roots. Higher Cd levels in the medium resulted in increased uptake and translocation of both Cd and K (in the tolerant cultivar) or only Cd (in the sensitive cultivar). Uptake of other nutrients (Ca, Zn, and Fe) was antagonistically affected by Cd stress in both cultivars. Moreover, Cd stress significantly impaired chlorophyll content, catalase activity, and total protein content; irrespective of the genotype. The malondialdehyde (MDA) content was found to increase, in both cultivars, together with Cd level. However, the extent to which Cd interfered with the studied attributes was more pronounced in the sensitive cultivar as compared to the tolerant one. It is concluded that the maize roots responded to Cd stress by initiating modulations of medium pH which might be dependent on Cd tolerance levels. The study results may help to develop strategies to reduce Cd accumulation in maize and decontamination of metal-polluted soil sediments.

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Acknowledgments

We gratefully acknowledge the Pioneer Seeds, Sahiwal, Pakistan, for providing seeds of different maize cultivars. The experimental work assistance by Dr. M. Iqbal, Dr. Nudrat Aisha Akram, and M. Asim Sajid is greatly appreciated. We also thank Dr. Sabaz Ali Khan as well as two anonymous reviewers for critically reading the manuscript and valuable comments.

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Correspondence to M. Tariq Javed.

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Tanwir, K., Akram, M.S., Masood, S. et al. Cadmium-induced rhizospheric pH dynamics modulated nutrient acquisition and physiological attributes of maize (Zea mays L.). Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 9193–9203 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-015-4076-8

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Keywords

  • Cadmium
  • Nutrient acquisition
  • Rhizospheric pH
  • Zea mays L