Phytochelatins play a key role in arsenic accumulation and tolerance in the aquatic macrophyte Wolffia globosa

Xin Zhang, M. Kalle Uroic, Wan-Ying Xie, Yong-Guan Zhu, Bao-Dong Chen, Steve P. McGrath, Jörg Feldmann, Fang-Jie Zhao

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46 Citations (Scopus)


The rootless duckweed Wolffia globosa can accumulate and tolerate relatively large amounts of arsenic (As); however, the underlying mechanisms were unknown. W. globosa was exposed to different concentrations of arsenate with or without L-buthionine sulphoximine (BSO), a specific inhibitor of gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase. Free thiol compounds and As(III)-thiol complexes were identified and quantified using HPLC - high resolution ICP-MS accurate mass ESI-MS. Without BSO, 74% of the As accumulated in the duckweed was complexed with phytochelatins (PCs), with As(III)-PC4 and As(III) -PC3 being the main species. BSO was taken up by the duckweed and partly deaminated. The BSO treatment completely suppressed the synthesis of PCs and the formation of As(III)-PC complexes, and also inhibited the reduction of arsenate to arsenite. BSO markedly decreased both As accumulation and As tolerance in W. globosa. The results demonstrate an important role of PCs in detoxifying As and enabling As accumulation in W. globosa. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-24
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • arsenic
  • arsenic tolerance
  • arsenic speciation
  • phytochelatins
  • Wolffia globosa


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