Metallothionein production is a common tolerance mechanism in four species growing in polluted Cu mining areas in Peru

Juan Pablo Portilla Llerena, Raúl Lima Coasaca, Herbert Omar Lazo Rodriguez, Sofía Ángela Portilla Llerena, Ysabel Diaz Valencia, Paulo Mazzafera

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Cu pollution is a problem in mining areas in Peru. Here we evaluate the phytoextraction capacity, physiological and proteomic responses of four species growing in copper-contaminated areas in Arequipa, Peru. The plants used in the experiments were obtained by collecting seedlings (Tessaria integrifolia, Bacharis salicifolia), rhizomes (Eleocharis montevidensis) and seeds (Chenopodium murale) along a polluted river. They were exposed to solutions containing 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32 mg Cu L-1 during 20 days. Growth was affected in a concentration-dependent way. According to the tolerance index, B. salicifolia and C. murale were the most sensitive species, but with greater Cu phytoextraction capacity and accumulation in the biomass. The content and ratio of photosynthetic pigments changed differently for each specie and carotenoids level were less affected than chlorophyll. Cu also induced changes in the protein and sugar contents. Antioxidant enzyme activities (catalase and superoxide dismutase) increased with a decrease in the malondialdehyde. There were marked changes in the protein 2D-PAGE profiles with an increase in the abundance of metallothioneins (MT) of class II type I and II. Our results suggest that these species can grow in Cu polluted areas because they developed multiple tolerance mechanisms, such as and MTs production seems a important one.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112009
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
JPPL and RLC thank to the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, CONCYTEC (Proyecto No 244-2008 PROCYT-CONCYTEC). The authors also thank Edwin Bustamante, Erick Ortiz, Alex Pari and Victor Hugo Rodriguez for their relevant contributions in the laboratory work. We also thank Prof. Laszlo Karoly Nagy for critically reading the manuscript, and for the useful remarks.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors


  • Copper
  • Growth
  • Phytoextraction
  • Protein
  • Protein expression
  • Tolerance


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