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Assessment of lead tolerance on Glycine max (L.) Merr. at early growth stages


Lead (Pb) contamination of agricultural soils, and subsequently of crops, has been widely reported. Soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) has been indicated as a plant that accumulates Pb, even in soils that do not exceed the maximum permissible levels. Considering the toxicity of this heavy metal, the aim of the present study was to assess different concentrations of Pb, from low to extremely high (0.25 mM, 1 mM, and 2.5 mM), in soybean seedlings and their tolerance by analyzing morpho-physiological parameters in hydroponic experiments. Soybean seedlings were exposed to control and Pb treatments during 8 days, coinciding with the early growth stages, and the following variables were analyzed: biomass, Pb content in roots, stems and leaves, photosynthetic efficiency, leaf area, biochemical response (antioxidant power, chlorophylls, malondialdehyde), and relative water content of leaves. Results showed that roots accumulated much more Pb than the other organs, with Pb accumulation in roots being saturated even at the lowest Pb concentration, which was reflected in root biomass. Moreover, absorption of culture solutions was lower in Pb treatments, which was also reflected in the lower leaf relative water content. Lead toxicity symptoms in leaves (chlorosis and dark spots, and a decrease of biomass and leaf area, chlorophyll content, and photosynthetic efficiency), and an increase of the oxidative defense system were associated only with the highest Pb concentration (2.5 mM). Our findings support the evidence of soybean as a species tolerant to Pb, showing the effects of toxicity at very high concentrations.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available on reasonable request from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly available due to privacy or ethical restrictions.


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We thank Biol. Alejandro Enet and Dr. Rodrigo Parola for providing advice in stress analysis. We are especially thankful to Jorgelina Brasca (certified English translator) for language revision.


The following funding have contributed to the design of the study, laboratory analysis, interpretation of the data, and writing of the manuscript: Secretaría de Ciencia y Técnica de la Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, UNC, (Funding holder: Rodriguez J.H. 30820150100435CB; Funding holder: Rodriguez J.H. PID Consolidar 33620180100151CB), Fondo para la Investigación Científica y Técnica (Funding holder: Pignata M.L. PICT 2013-0988; PICT 2016-2061) and Consejo de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (Funding holder: Rodriguez J.H. PIP 11220120100402CO). A. Blanco was funded by CONICET through a scholarship.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. AB and JHR performed material preparation, data collection, and analysis. JHR, MLP, and HRL performed the experimental design and supervision of experiments. The first draft of the manuscript was written by AB and JHR, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Andrés Blanco.

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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Responsible Editor: Gangrong Shi

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Blanco, A., Pignata, M.L., Lascano, H.R. et al. Assessment of lead tolerance on Glycine max (L.) Merr. at early growth stages. Environ Sci Pollut Res 28, 22843–22852 (2021).

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  • Soybean
  • Pb
  • Toxicity
  • Morpho-physiological parameters
  • Abiotic stress
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Hydroponic system