The effect of lead pollution on nutrient solution pH and concomitant changes in plant physiology of two contrasting Solanum melongena L. cultivars

Abstract

Lead (Pb) is highly toxic to plants because it severely affects physiological processes by altering nutrient solution pH. The current study elucidated Pb-induced changes in nutrient solution pH and its effect on physiology of two Solanum melongena L. cultivars (cv. Chuttu and cv. VRIB-13). Plants were grown in black plastic containers having 0, 15, 20, and 25 mg L−1 PbCl2 in nutrient solutions with starting pH of 6.0. pH changes by roots of S. melongena were continuously monitored for 8 days, and harvested plants were analyzed for physiological and biochemical attributes. Time scale studies revealed that cv. Chuttu and cv. VRIB-13 responded to Pb stress by causing acidification and alkalinization of growth medium during the first 48 h, respectively. Both cultivars increased nutrient solution pH, and maximum pH rise of 1.21 units was culminated by cv. VRIB-13 at 15 mg L−1 Pb and 0.8 units by cv. Chuttu at 25 mg L−1 Pb treatment during the 8-day period. Plant biomass, photosynthetic pigments, ascorbic acid, total amino acid, and total protein contents were significantly reduced by Pb stress predominantly in cv. Chuttu than cv. VRIB-13. Interestingly, chlorophyll contents of cv. VRIB-13 increased with increasing Pb levels. Pb contents of roots and shoots of both cultivars increased with applied Pb levels while nutrient (Ca, Mg, K, and Fe) contents decreased predominately in cv. Chuttu. Negative correlations were identified among Pb contents of eggplant roots and shoots and plant biomasses, leaf area, and free anthocyanin. Taken together, growth medium alkalinization, lower root to shoot Pb translocation, and optimum balance of nutrients (Mg and Fe) conferred growth enhancement, ultimately making cv. VRIB-13 auspicious for tolerating Pb toxicity as compared with cv. Chuttu. The research outcomes are important for devising metallicolous plant-associated strategies based on plant pH modulation response and associated metal uptake to remediate Pb-polluted soil.

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Acknowledgments

Seedlings of eggplant cultivars were provided by Ayub Agricultural Research Institute (ARRI), Faisalabad, Pakistan. We thank two anonymous reviewers for critical proofreading of the manuscript and constructive feedback.

Funding

We gratefully acknowledge financial assistance from Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan, for execution of the current work (Grant No. PD-IPFP/HRD/HEC/2013/3021).

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The study was planned by MTJ, NH, and MSA. Experiments as well as physiological, biochemical, and statistical analysis were performed by AS and KT with assistance from MTJ. QA, MZH, and HJC contributed to data discussion. All authors approved the final manuscript for submission.

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Correspondence to Muhammad Tariq Javed.

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Javed, M.T., Habib, N., Akram, M.S. et al. The effect of lead pollution on nutrient solution pH and concomitant changes in plant physiology of two contrasting Solanum melongena L. cultivars. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 34633–34644 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-06575-z

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Keywords

  • Eggplant
  • Lead tolerance
  • pH modulations
  • Physiology
  • Phytoremediation