Effects of heavy metals on seed germination and early seedling growth of Arabidopsis thaliana

Weiqiang Li, Mohammad A. Khan, Shinjiro Yamaguchi, Yuji Kamiya

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172 Citations (Scopus)


Seed is a developmental stage that is highly protective against external stresses in the plant life cycle. In this study, we analyzed toxicity of essential (Cu 2+ and Zn 2+ ) and non-essential heavy metals (Hg 2+ , Pb 2+ and Cd 2+ ) on seed germination and seedling growth in the model species Arabidopsis. Our results show that seedling growth is more sensitive to heavy metals (Hg 2+ , Pb 2+ , Cu 2+ and Zn 2+ ) in comparison to seed germination, while Cd 2+ is the exception that inhibited both of these processes at similar concentrations. To examine if toxicity of heavy metals is altered developmentally during germination, we incubated seeds with Hg 2+ or Cd 2+ only for a restricted period during germination. Hg 2+ displayed relatively strong toxicity at period II (12-24 h after imbibition), while Cd 2+ was more effective to inhibit germination at period I (0-12 h after imbibition) rather than at period II. The observed differences are likely to be due in part to selective uptake of different ions by the intact seed, because isolated embryos (without seed coat and endosperm) are more sensitive to both Hg 2+ and Cd 2+ at period I. We assessed interactive toxicity between heavy metals and non-toxic cations, and found that Ca 2+ was able to partially restore the inhibition of seedling growth by Pb 2+ and Zn 2+ .

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-50
Number of pages6
JournalPlant Growth Regulation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005 May 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • Heavy metal
  • Seed germination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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