Root growth responses to lead in young maize seedlings

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Abstract

This work was undertaken to follow the appearance and development of symptoms of lead toxicity in growing roots of seedlings. The effects of lead nitrate (10−2–105 M) were studied on the roots of maize (Zea mays) seedlings, cvs. Diamant and Sterling. The roots were grown on filter paper either on glass in trays or in large Petri dishes. The following characteristics of root growth were studied: seed germination, length of primary and seminal roots, number of seminal and lateral roots, length of branching zone, length of meristem and fully-elongated cells and the number of fully-elongated cells along the daily length increment. 10−2 M lead nitrate exerted a clear toxic effect on root elongation just after radicle emergence; its influence on shoot growth was weak. However 10−2 M Pb solution did not affect either radicle emergence itself or seminal root emergence, which can be explained by the impermeability of seed testa to lead salt. The inhibitory effect of 10−3 M lead nitrate appeared a day later and was not as toxic: the growth of primary and seminal roots proceeded at lower rate due to a partial inhibition of cell division and cell elongation in them. 10−3 M lead nitrate modified the root system morphology: it exerted no effect on the emergence of lateral roots and their number, but induced a more compact distribution of lateral roots along a shorter branching zone due to a reduced length of mature cells in the primary root. As a result of the more prominent inhibition of primary root growth, a shorter branching zone with more compactly located lateral roots occupied a position much closer to the root tip than in roots grown without the influence of lead.

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