Humic acids decrease uptake and distribution of trace metals, but not the growth of radish exposed to cadmium toxicity

Gabrijel Ondrasek, Zed Rengel, Davor Romic

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41 Citations (Scopus)


Naturally-occurring highly-complexed and polymerised organics such as humic acids (HA), due to their large negative charge, play a crucial role in biogeochemistry of trace metals (TM). Toxic (Cd) as well as essential (Zn, Cu, Mn) TM bind strongly to HA, but how these organo-metalic forms influence metal uptake by plants is poorly understood. A solution culture study was conducted to characterize the effects of different concentrations of HA (0–225 mg/L) on the growth and element uptake/distribution in roots, shoots and hypocotyls of radish (Raphanus sativus L.) exposed to Cd (0.5 mg/L) contamination. After 10-d-exposure to applied treatments, Cd induced phytotoxicity; in contrast, different concentrations of HA had no influence on biomass, but decreased concentration of most TM in examined tissues (Cu by 4.2-fold, Zn by 2.2-fold, Cd by 1.6-fold and Mn by 34%) and their total plant accumulation (Cu by 73%, Cd by 39%, Zn by 29% and Mn by 22%). HA influenced the transport/distribution of TM, decreasing accumulation in roots and increasing their translocation/deposition in shoots, with no effect on TM content in edible hypocotyls. Chemical speciation modelling of the rooting medium confirmed predominance of free metallic forms in the control (no HA) and the pronounced organo-metal complexation in the HA treatments. The results provide evidence of strong capacity of HA to decrease phytoavailability and uptake of Cd, Zn, Cu and Mn while being non-toxic even at relatively high concentration (225 mg/L). Thus, HA, as naturally present soil components, control mobility and phyto-extraction of most TM as well as their phyto-accumulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-61
Number of pages7
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2018


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