Surfactant and heavy metal interaction in poplar: a focus on SDS and Zn uptake.
Surfactants are widely used detergent ingredients and, thanks to their chemical properties, they are applied for remediation of sites polluted by heavy metals and organic contaminants, both in soil flushing and in phytoremediation. However, their direct effects on tree physiology especially in consociation with heavy metal pollution, as well as their possible absorption by plants, have not been appropriately investigated. In order to evaluate plant uptake/translocation of the surfactant sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) and the heavy metal zinc (Zn) in Populus alba L. Villafranca clone, SDS was applied alone (0.5 mM) or in combination with Zn (1 mM). Physiological effects on plant growth and photosynthetic performance were investigated. An increasing trend of Zn translocation towards basal leaves as a consequence of SDS co-treatment (1 mM Zn + 0.5 mM SDS; P = 0.03) was observed, proving the ability of SDS to improve heavy metals translocation. However, SDS exposure (both in 0.5 mM SDS and 1 mM Zn + 0.5 mM SDS treated plants) resulted in the appearance of foliar necrosis that expanded with an acropetal trend and finally led to leaf abscission. This phenotype may be caused by the emergence of an additional stress during the experimental trial, which could be related to the dissociation of sodium (Na) ions from the dodecyl sulfate molecules in the hydroponic system. In fact, while liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry measurements revealed that dodecyl sulfate is mainly retained at root levels, Na is translocated to the aerial parts of the plant.