Effect of some heavy metals and soil humic substances on the phytochelatin production in wild plants from silver mine areas of Guanajuato, Mexico

Julio Alberto Landero Figueroa, Katarzyna Wrobel, Scott Afton, Joseph A. Caruso, J. Felix Gutierrez Corona, Kazimierz Wrobel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Phytochelatins (PCs) were determined in the wild plants, focusing on their relationship with the levels of heavy metals and humic substances (HS) in soil. Ricinus communis and Tithonia diversifolia were collected from several sites in Guanajuato city (Mexico), which had long been the silver and gold mining center. The analysis of PCs in root extracts was carried out by liquid chromatography (derivatization with monobromobimane). Total Ag, Cd, Cu and Pb in plant roots and in soil samples, as well as soil HS were determined. The association of metals with HS in soils was evaluated by size exclusion chromatography (SEC) with UV and ICP-MS detection. The results obtained revealed the induction of PCs in R. communis but not in T. diversifolia. The levels of Cd and Pb in plant roots presented strong positive correlation with PC-2 (r = 0.9395, p = 0.005; r = 0.9573, p = 0.003, respectively), indicating that these two metals promote PCs induction in R. communis. On the other hand, the inverse correlation was found between soil HS and metal levels in roots of R. communis (Cu > Pb > Cd > Ag), in agreement with the decreasing affinity of these metals to HS. Importantly, the inverse correlation between soil HS and plant PC-2 was observed (r = -0.7825, p = 0.066). These results suggest that metals strongly bound to HS could be less bioavailable to plants, which in turn would limit their role in the induction of PCs. Indeed, the SEC elution profiles showed Pb but not Cd association with HS and the correlation between metal in soil and PC-2 in plant was statistically significant only for Cd (r = 0.7857, p = 0.064). Based on these results it is proposed that the role of heavy metals in PCs induction would depend on their uptake by R. communis, which apparently is controlled by the association of metals with soil HS. This work provides further evidence on the role of environmental conditions in the accumulation of heavy metals and phytochelatin production in plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2084-2091
Number of pages8
Issue number11
StatePublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Heavy metals
  • Humic substances
  • Phytochelatins
  • Ricinus communis
  • Tithonia diversifolia


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