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Stress One of most common responses to environmental stress in plants is the induction of an oxidative stress condition. A large number of reports has shown that Cd induces several ROS, such as the superoxide radical (O2•), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and the hydroxyl radical (OH•).
These ROS can accelerate lipid peroxidation, thus affecting cell membrane fluidity and permeability due to an alteration in the composition of membrane lipids.Consequently, these responses trigger plant ROS-scavenging mechanisms. In fact, during Cd stress, systems capable of preventing uncontrolled oxidation are induced or stimulated, and these include some key enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione reductase (GR), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPX), ascorbate peroxidase (APX), and other peroxidases, which detoxify H2O2.Nonenzymatic mechanisms of ROS detoxification can also operate, and the main nonenzymatic antioxidants include ascorbate and glutathione (GSH), as well as vitamins, flavonoids, alkaloids, and carotenoids.
Along with these important biochemical aspects, further molecular and genomic studies are required to elucidate how plants respond to Cd stress, and several researchers have already reported encouraging results using plants bioengineered with antioxidant enzymes.
Nonenzymatic antioxidants in plants may also be involved in the internal detoxification of the stress induced by Cd. For instance, anthocyanins, which are important flavonoid molecules, clearly show powerful antioxidant capacity against various free radicals during Cd stress.
Although gene expression profiling has increased our understanding of Cd-stress signaling, it is still important to know how the transcriptional changes are reflected at the translational level. Thus, proteomics studies are also an important tool that can be used to gain a comprehensive understanding of plant responses to Cd. For instance,changes in the protein profile in response to Cd treatment in a number of studies have revealed a wide range of antioxidant molecules in different species.Nevertheless, much more has to be done to elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved in posttranscriptional regulation during the induction of antioxidant systems in response to Cd.
The Role of Plants in Cleaning up Cd-Contaminated Soils It is possible that the damage caused by metals on the agricultural ecosystem could be solved by using tolerant plants to clean up the metal-contaminated areas. However, it is essential to investigate and understand how plants work and what metabolic pathways and genes are involved in such a process.The mechanisms of Cd detoxification, accumulation, and tolerance have become the basis for using plants for the remediation of Cd contaminated soil. In this context, high tolerance to heavy metal toxicity can be related to the ability of roots to tolerate Cd, as the toxic metal enters the roots first. For instance, roots of Cd hyperaccumulator plants have been shown to possess mechanisms for metal tolerance, such as the direct activation of GSH synthesis and induction of additional sinks for reduced sulfur, suggesting that some other SH compounds are possibly involved in Cd detoxification.
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