Current Scenario of Pb Toxicity in Plants: Unraveling Plethora of Physiological Responses

  • Sukhmeen Kaur KohliEmail author
  • Neha Handa
  • Shagun Bali
  • Kanika Khanna
  • Saroj Arora
  • Anket Sharma
  • Renu BhardwajEmail author
Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series (RECT, volume 249)


Lead (Pb) is an extremely toxic metal for all living forms including plants. It enters plants through roots from soil or soil solution. It is considered as one of the most eminent examples of anthropogenic environmental pollutant added in environment through mining and smelting of lead ores, coal burning, waste from battery industries, leaded paints, metal plating, and automobile exhaust. Uptake of Pb in plants is a nonselective process and is driven by H+/ATPases. Translocation of Pb metal ions occurs by apoplastic movement resulting in deposition of metal ions in the endodermis and is further transported by symplastic movement. Plants exposed to high concentration of Pb show toxic symptoms due to the overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) through Fenton-Haber-Weiss reaction. ROS include superoxide anion, hydroxyl radical, and hydrogen peroxide, which reach to macro- and micro-cellular levels in the plant cells and cause oxidative damage. Plant growth and plethora of biochemical and physiological attributes including plant growth, water status, photosynthetic efficiency, antioxidative defense system, phenolic compounds, metal chelators, osmolytes, and redox status are adversely influenced by Pb toxicity. Plants respond to toxic levels of Pb in varied ways such as restricted uptake of metal, chelation of metal ions to the root endodermis, enhancement in activity of antioxidative defense, alteration in metal transporters expression, and involvement of plant growth regulators.


Antioxidants Lead Metal chelators Osmolytes Phenolic compounds 



Atomic absorption spectrophotometer


Abscisic acid


ATP-binding cassettes




Ascorbate peroxidase




Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry






Clean Air Act



Chl a

Chlorophyll a

Chl b

Chlorophyll b


Carbon dioxide




Copper/zinc superoxide dismutase


Dehydroascorbate reductase


Ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid


Electron transport chain




Glycine betaine


Glutathione peroxidase


Glutathione reductase




Glutathione disulfide




Hydrogen peroxide




Hydroxyl radical


Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry


Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry








Monodehydroascorbate reductase






Manganese/zinc superoxide dismutase





\( {\mathrm{NO}}_3^{-} \)



Singlet oxygen radical


Superoxide anion radical






Phytochelatin synthetase




Plant growth regulators

\( {\mathrm{PO}}_4^{-} \)



Guaiacol peroxidase


Reactive oxygen species


Safe Drinking Water Act


Superoxide dismutase


Thiobarbituric acid


Transfer factor


Toxic Substances Control Act


World Health Organization





Financial help for carrying out above work was given by the University Grant Commission, Government of India, GOI (Maulana Azad National Fellowship), and DST-FIST, of GOI, is also duly acknowledged.

Contribution of Authors

Sukhmeen Kaur Kohli, Renu Bhardwaj, and Saroj Arora designed the layout of the review article. Neha Handa, Shagun Bali, Kanika Khanna, and Anket Sharma helped in writing of the different sections of the manuscript. Renu Bhardwaj, Sukhmeen Kaur Kohli, and Kanika Khanna revised the manuscript to present form.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sukhmeen Kaur Kohli
    • 1
    Email author
  • Neha Handa
    • 2
  • Shagun Bali
    • 1
  • Kanika Khanna
    • 1
  • Saroj Arora
    • 1
  • Anket Sharma
    • 3
  • Renu Bhardwaj
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Botanical and Environmental SciencesGuru Nanak Dev UniversityAmritsarIndia
  2. 2.Department of Botany, School of Bioengineering and BiosciencesLovely Professional UniversityPhagwaraIndia
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Subtropical SilvicultureZhejiang A&F UniversityHangzhouChina

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