Direct observation of organic contaminant uptake, storage and metabolism within plant roots.

Wild, Edward and Dent, John and Thomas, Gareth O. and Jones, Kevin C. (2005) Direct observation of organic contaminant uptake, storage and metabolism within plant roots. Environmental Science and Technology, 39 (10). pp. 3695-3702. ISSN 0013-936X

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Two-photon excitation microscopy (TPEM) is used to visualize and track the uptake and movement of anthracene and phenanthrene from a contaminated growth medium into living unmodified roots of maize and wheat over a 56-day period. The degradation of anthracene was also directly observed within the cortex cells of both species. The power of this technique is that neither the plant nor the compound require altering (staining or sectioning) to visualize them, meaning they are in their natural form throughout the experiment. Initially both compounds bound to the epidermis along the zone of elongation, passing through the epidermal cells to reach the cortex within the root hair, and branching zones of the root. The PAHs entered the epidermis radially; however, once within the cortex cells this movement was dominated by slow lateral movement of both compounds toward the shoot. Highly focused “streams” of compound were observed to form over time; zones where phenanthrene concentrated extended up to 1500 μm in length over a 56-day period, for example, passing through several adjoining cells, and were detectable in cell walls and cell vacuoles. Radial movement was not observed to extend beyond the cortex cells to reach the vascular tissues of the plant. The longitudinal movement of both compounds was not observed to extend beyond the root base into the stem or vegetative parts of the plant. The lateral movement of both compounds within the cortex cells was dominated by movement within the cell walls, suggesting apoplastic flow through multiple cell walls, but with a low level of symplastic movement to transport compound into the cellular vacuoles. Degradation of anthracene to the partial breakdown products anthrone, anthraquinone, and hydroxyanthraquinone was observed directly in the zones of root elongation and branching. The technique and observations have important applications to the fields of agrochemistry and phytoremediation.

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Journal Article
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Environmental Science and Technology
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08 Jan 2009 13:30
Last Modified:
19 Sep 2023 23:57