• aluminum (Al) toxicity;
  • metabolomics;
  • organic acids;
  • oxidative stress;
  • proteomics;
  • superoxide dismutase


  • Aluminum (Al) toxicity is a major limiting factor of crop production on acid soils, but the implication of oxidative stress in this process is controversial. A multidisciplinary approach was used here to address this question in the forage legume Lotus corniculatus.
  • Plants were treated with low Al concentrations in hydroponic culture, and physiological and biochemical parameters, together with semiquantitative metabolic and proteomic profiles, were determined.
  • The exposure of plants to 10 μM Al inhibited root and leaf growth, but had no effect on the production of reactive oxygen species or lipid peroxides. By contrast, exposure to 20 μM Al elicited the production of superoxide radicals, peroxide and malondialdehyde. In response to Al, there was a progressive replacement of the superoxide dismutase isoforms in the cytosol, a loss of ascorbate and consistent changes in amino acids, sugars and associated enzymes.
  • We conclude that oxidative stress is not a causative factor of Al toxicity. The increased contents in roots of two powerful Al chelators, malic and 2-isopropylmalic acids, together with the induction of an Al-activated malate transporter gene, strongly suggest that both organic acids are implicated in Al detoxification. The effects of Al on key proteins involved in cytoskeleton dynamics, protein turnover, transport, methylation reactions, redox control and stress responses underscore a metabolic dysfunction, which affects multiple cellular compartments, particularly in plants exposed to 20 μM Al.