Cadmium is a nonessential trace metal and a frequent soil contaminant. Because plants vary in their accumulation of Cd, an understanding of the specific processes that control uptake could reveal methods for reducing Cd levels in edible plant tissues and conversely increasing Cd accumulation in plants used for phytoremediation. Phytosiderophores are iron chelators excreted by graminaceous plants under conditions of iron limitation, but they also complex other metals including cadmium. Here we examine the influence of Cd exposure on phytosiderophore production by hydroponically grown maize. Cd increased the rate of the phytosiderophore 2'-deoxymugineic acid (DMA) release under both Fe-sufficient and Fe-limiting conditions (+/-Fe). In addition, the -Fe plants released more DMA while taking up less Cd than the +Fe plants. In other short-term Cd uptake experiments, plants exposed to Cd in the presence of root exudates in which the DMA-Cd complex was likely the dominant Cd species displayed reduced Cd accumulation in root tissue, and plants similarly exposed to strongly chelated Cd in the presence of EDTA (employed as a positive control) contained the least Cd. Collectively, these results indicate that Cd stress causes Fe deficiency symptoms that result in greater DMA production by maize roots, and then the DMA appears to reduce Cd accumulation.
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