Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Making the life of heavy metal-stressed plants a little easier

Priscila L. Gratão A , Andrea Polle B , Peter J. Lea C and Ricardo A. Azevedo A D

A Departamento de Genética, Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz, Universidade de São Paulo, Piracicaba CEP 13418-900, SP, Brazil.

B Forstbotanisches Institut, Universität Göttingen, Büsgenweg 2, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.

C Department of Biological Sciences, University of Lancaster, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, United Kingdom.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Functional Plant Biology 32(6) 481-494
Submitted: 21 January 2005  Accepted: 28 April 2005   Published: 15 June 2005


The contamination of soils and water with metals has created a major environmental problem, leading to considerable losses in plant productivity and hazardous health effects. Exposure to toxic metals can intensify the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are continuously produced in both unstressed and stressed plants cells. Some of the ROS species are highly toxic and must be detoxified by cellular stress responses, if the plant is to survive and grow. The aim of this review is to assess the mode of action and role of antioxidants in protecting plants from stress caused by the presence of heavy metals in the environment.

Keywords: antioxidant enzymes, heavy metals, oxidative stress, phytochelatin, phytotoxicity, reactive oxygen species.


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