Interference of nickel with copper and iron homeostasis contributes to metal toxicity symptoms in the nickel hyperaccumulator plant Alyssum inflatum


Author for correspondence:
Ute Krämer
Tel: +49 6221 5451 370


  • • The divalent cations of several transition metal elements have similar chemical properties and, when present in excess, one metal can interfere with the homeostasis of another. To better understand the role of interactions between transition metals in the development of metal toxicity symptoms in plants, the effects of exposure to excess nickel (Ni) on copper (Cu) and iron (Fe) homeostasis in the Ni hyperaccumulator plant Alyssum inflatum were examined.
  • • Alyssum inflatum was hypertolerant to Ni, but not to Cu. Exposure to elevated subtoxic Ni concentrations increased Cu sensitivity, associated with enhanced Cu accumulation and enhanced root surface Cu(II)-specific reductase activity.
  • • Exposure to elevated Ni concentrations resulted in an inhibition of root-to-shoot translocation of Fe and concentration-dependent progressive Fe accumulation in root pericycle, endodermis and cortex cells of the differentiation zone. Shoot Fe concentrations, chlorophyll concentrations and Fe-dependent antioxidant enzyme activities were decreased in Ni-exposed plants when compared with unexposed controls. Foliar Fe spraying or increased Fe supply to roots ameliorated the chlorosis observed under exposure to high Ni concentrations.
  • • These results suggest that Ni interferes with Cu regulation and that the disruption of root-to-shoot Fe translocation is a major cause of nickel toxicity symptoms in A. inflatum.