Mercury localization and speciation in plants grown hydroponically or in a natural environment

Sandra Carrasco-Gil, Hagar Siebner, Danika L. Leduc, Samuel M. Webb, Rocío Millán, Joy C. Andrews, Luis E. Hernández

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82 Scopus citations


Better understanding of mercury (Hg) accumulation, distribution, and speciation in plants is required to evaluate potential risks for the environment and to optimize phytostabilization strategies for Hg-contaminated soils. The behavior of Hg in alfalfa (Medicago sativa) plants grown under controlled conditions in a hydroponic system (30 μM HgCl2) was compared with that of naturally occurring Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) plants collected from a mining soil polluted with Hg (Almadenejos, Spain) to characterize common mechanisms of tolerance. Synchrotron X-ray Fluorescence microprobe (μ-SXRF) showed that Hg accumulated at the root apex of alfalfa and was distributed through the vascular system to the leaves. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) implied association of Hg with cell walls, accompanied by their structural changes, in alfalfa roots. Extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) determined that Hg was principally bound to biothiols and/or proteins in M. sativa roots, stems, and leaves. However, the major fraction of Hg detected in M. vulgare plants consisted of mineral species, possibly associated with soil components. Interestingly, the fraction of Hg bound to biothiols/proteins (i.e., metabolically processed Hg) in leaves of both plants (alfalfa and M. vulgare) was similar, in spite of the big difference in Hg accumulation in roots, suggesting that some tolerance mechanisms might be shared.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3082-3090
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2 Apr 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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