Quantitative analysis of root and ectomycorrhizal exudates as a response to Pb, Cd and As stress

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We examined exudation of low molecular weight (LMW) organic compounds of ectomycorrhizal (ECM) and non-mycorrhizal (NM) seedlings in relation to metals. Scots pine seedlings, either colonized by one of six different ECM fungi or NM, were grown in Petri dishes containing glass beads and liquid growth medium and exposed to elevated concentrations of Pb, Cd and As. Exudation of LMW organic compounds (LMW organic acids (LMWOAs), amino acids and dissolved monosaccharides) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) was determined qualitatively and quantitatively and exudation rates were calculated. Metals had a significant impact on exudation, especially of oxalate. For Pb and Cd treatments, exudation of oxalate and total LMWOAs generally increased by 15–45% compared to nutrient controls. Production of amino acids, dissolved monosaccharides and DOC was not significantly stimulated by exposure to metals; however, there were non-significant trends towards increased exudation. Finally, exudation generally increased in the presence of mycorrhizal seedlings compared to NM seedlings. The results suggest that ECM fungi may reduce the toxicity of metals to plants through significant increases in the production of organic chelators. Axenic conditions are required to assess the full potential for production of these molecules but their overall significance in soil ecosystems needs to be determined using additional experiments under more ecologically realistic conditions.

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