Growth and biochemical alterations in coffee due to selenite toxicity

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Two experiments were conducted to investigate selenite toxicity in coffee (Coffea arabica cv. Catuaí). In the first aqueous selenite solution (10 µM Na2SeO2) was used to infiltrate leaves of an adult coffee plant. The infiltrated leaves and fruits adjacent to them showed enhanced contents of caffeine and soluble sugars. Amino acid contents were not affected, whereas pigments (chlorophylls, carotenoids and xanthophylls) exhibited a significant decrease. In the second experiment, coffee seedlings were irrigated with aqueous selenite solutions (10,100 and 1000 µM Na2SeO2) and the first and third pairs of leaves were analyzed. Control plants did not receive selenium. The plants were not different in height, but at the highest selenium concentration showed lower dry matter accumulation in roots and leaves, lower leaf area and thicker leaves. Increases in caffeine and soluble sugars were observed in the first pair of leaves at the highest selenium concentration, although selenium content itself increased steadily with increasing solution concentration. Phenols increased in both leaf pairs and pigments decreased in the third pair. Nitrate reductase activity, measured in the second leaf pair, was much lower at all selenium levels. The profile of free amino acid was altered in leaves of plants treated with selenium.

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