Tetracycline accumulates in Iberis sempervirens L. through apoplastic transport inducing oxidative stress and growth inhibition



Environmental antibiotic contamination is due mainly to improper and illegal disposal of these molecules that, yet pharmacologically active, are excreted by humans and animals. These compounds contaminate soil, water and plants. Many studies have reported the bioaccumulation of antibiotics in plants and their negative effects on photosynthesis, cell growth and oxidative balance. Therefore, the principal objective of this paper was the study of antibiotic accumulation sites in plants and its uptake modality. Iberis sempervirens L., grown in soil and in agar in the presence or absence of tetracycline, were used as a model system. Using confocal and transmission electron microscopy, we demonstrated that tetracycline was absorbed and propagated in plants through apoplastic transport and also accumulated in intercellular spaces. Tetracycline was rarely detected inside cells (in cytoplasm and mitochondria where, coherent to its pharmacological activity, it probably affected ribosomes), except in stomata. Moreover, we verified and clarified further the phytotoxic effects of tetracycline on plants. We observed that the antibiotic induced a large reduction in plant growth and development and inhibition of photosynthetic activity. As tetracycline may lead to oxidative stress in plants, plant cells tried to balance this disequilibrium by increasing the amount and activity of some endogenous enzyme antioxidant agents (superoxide dismutase 1 and catalase) and levels of antiradical secondary metabolites.