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Journal of Plant Physiology ] (]]]]) ]]]—]]]

Photosynthetic activity, pigment composition and

antioxidative response of two mustard (Brassica
juncea) cultivars differing in photosynthetic
capacity subjected to cadmium stress
Mohammad Mobin, Nafees A. Khan

Plant Physiology and Biochemistry Division, Department of Botany, Aligarh Muslim University,
Aligarh (U.P.) 202002, India

Received 17 November 2005; accepted 14 March 2006

Photosynthetic performance, contents of chlorophyll and associated pigments,
cellular damage and activities of antioxidative enzymes were investigated in two
mustard (Brassica juncea L.) cultivars differing in photosynthetic capacity subjected
to cadmium (Cd) stress. Exposure to Cd severely restricted the net photosynthetic
rate (PN) of RH-30 compared to Varuna. This corresponded to the reductions in the
activities of carbonic anhydrase (CA) and ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase
(Rubisco) in both the cultivars. Decline in chlorophyll (Chl) (a+b) and Chl a content
was observed but decrease in Chl b was more conspicuous in Varuna under Cd
treatments, which was responsible for higher Chl a:b ratio. Additionally, the relative
amount of anthocyanin remained higher in Varuna compared to RH-30 even in the
presence of high Cd concentration, while percent pheophytin content increased in
RH-30 at low Cd concentration. A higher concentration of Cd (100 mg Cd kg1 soil)
resulted in elevated hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) content in both the cultivars.
However, Varuna exhibited lower content of H2O2 in comparison to RH-30. This was
reflected in the increased cellular damage in RH-30, expressed by greater
thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) content and electrolyte leakage.
The enhanced activities of antioxidative enzymes, ascorbate peroxidase (APX),

Abbreviations: AOS, active oxygen species; APX, ascorbate peroxidase; CA, carbonic anhydrase; CAT, catalase; Cd, cadmium; Chl,
chlorophyll; DMSO, dimethyl sulfoxide; E, transpiration rate; GR, glutathione reductase; gS, stomatal conductance; PN, net
photosynthetic rate; Rubisco, ribulose-1, 5-bisphosphate carboxylase; SOD, superoxide dismutase; TBARS, thiobarbituric acid reactive
Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (M. Mobin).

0176-1617/$ - see front matter & 2006 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.
2 M. Mobin, N.A. Khan

catalase (CAT) and glutathione reductase (GR) and also lower activity of superoxide
dismutase (SOD) in Varuna alleviated Cd stress and protected the photosynthetic
& 2006 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

Introduction lase (Rubisco), net photosynthetic rate (PN), stoma-

tal conductance (gS), transpiration rate (E) and
Cadmium (Cd) can be accumulated to higher contents of chlorophyll (Chl), pheophytin and
levels in the aerial organs (Pence et al., 2000), relative amount of anthocyanin, associated changes
preferentially in the chloroplasts and disturbs the in the contents of H2O2, thiobarbituric acid reactive
chloroplast function by inhibiting the activities of substances (TBARS), electrolyte leakage and the
enzymes of chlorophyll biosynthesis and CO2 fixa- capacities of antioxidative enzymes SOD, APX, CAT
tion (Böddi et al., 1995; Krupa and Baszynski, 1995; and GR under Cd stress.
Siedlecka et al., 1997) or the aggregation of
pigment protein complexes of the photosystems
(Horvath et al., 1996). The Cd-induced formation of
Material and methods
active oxygen species (AOS), superoxide anion
(O2 ), hydroxyl (OH) radicals and H2O2 result in
Plant material and growth conditions
the damage of chloroplast. The presence of H2O2 in
the chloroplasts restricts Calvin-cycle enzymes
The seeds of mustard (B. juncea L. Czern & Coss)
reducing carbon assimilation (Takeda et al.,
cultivars Varuna (high photosynthetic capacity) and
1995). It induces changes in the functions of
RH-30 (low photosynthetic capacity) were surface
membranes by initiating peroxidation of polyunsa-
sterilized with 0.5% NaOCl for 20 min, rinsed and
turated fatty acids (De Vos et al., 1993), oxidative
soaked overnight in sterile water for 12 h at 4 1C for
damage by formation of oxygen free radicals or by
uniform germination. The seeds were transferred
the reduction in the status of enzymatic and non-
to 23-cm-diameter earthen pots filled with 5 kg of
enzymatic antioxidants (Shaw, 1995; Somashekar-
reconstituted soil (sand:clay:peat; 70:20:10, by dry
aiah et al., 1992).
weight) in the green house of the Botany Depart-
Plants appear to possess a wide array of defense
ment, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India,
strategies to protect the photosynthetic apparatus
under semi-controlled condition. A polythene plas-
and cellular membranes from AOS (Foyer and
tic film was used to thwart the effects of rainfall,
Harbinson, 1994). Production of antioxidative en-
which allowed the transmittance of 90% of visible
zymes is one part of the defense system that plants
wavelength (400–700 nm) under natural day and
require to protect against stress. Superoxide dis-
night conditions with a day/night temperature 25/
mutase (SOD; EC constitutes the primary
2074 1C and relative humidity of 7075%. Cd at a
step of cellular defense. It dismutates O2  to H2O2
concentration of 0, 25, 50 and 100 mg kg1 was
and O2. Further, the accumulation of H2O2 is
added to the soil as CdCl2  6H2O and thoroughly
restricted through the action of catalase (CAT; EC
mixed. The soil pH was 7.5. Plants (4 per pot) were or by the ascorbate–glutathione cycle,
watered every alternate day with half strength of
where ascorbate peroxidase (APX; EC
Hoagland nutrient solution. Watering schedule was
reduces it to H2O. Finally, glutathione reductase
adjusted throughout the experimental duration in
(GR; EC catalyzes the NADPH-dependent
order to avert leaching. The treatments were
reduction of oxidized GSSG to the reduced GSH
arranged in a randomized complete block design,
(Noctor et al., 2002).
and each treatment was replicated five times.
Mustard (Brassica juncea L. Czern & Coss) is
recognized as an accumulator of heavy metals. It
is, therefore, postulated that the mustard cultivars Photosynthetic and gas exchange
with diverse photosynthetic capacity detoxifies the measurements
AOS and protects the chloroplast functions differ-
ently from oxidative damage. In the present Photosynthetic parameters, PN, gS and E were
investigation, two mustard cultivars, Varuna and recorded on fully expanded leaves of second
RH-30 (Khan, 2004), were used to study carbonic youngest nodes at 30 days after sowing using an
anhydrase (CA), ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxy- infra-red gas analyzer (IRGA, LICOR, 6200, Lincoln,
Photosynthesis and oxidative stress in cadmium-treated mustard 3

NE, USA) between 11:00 and 13:00 h at light Chl b ¼ 25:48A648:2  7:36A664:9 ,
saturation intensity. These observations were re-
corded on five plants in a treatment. Chl a þ b ¼ 7:49A664:9 þ 20:3A648:2 .

Determination of enzymes of carbon

assimilation and reduction pathway Determination of anthocyanin and pheophytin
Activity of CA in leaf was estimated according to The relative amount of anthocyanin was esti-
the method described by Makino et al. (1992). mated spectrophotometrically after extraction in
Sampled leaves were homogenized in 10 mL of acidified methanol (methanol:water:HCl: 79:20:1)
buffer containing 50 mM HEPES-NaOH (pH 7.5), as described by Mancinelli (1984) using A530–
10 mM DTT, 0.5 mM EDTA and 10% (v/v) glycerol. 0.25A657 to correct for Chl and non-specific
Triton X-100 was added to the homogenate to a degradation products.
final concentration of 0.1% (v/v). The homogenate For determination of pheophytin, leaf samples
was centrifuged (15,000g, 10 min), and the super- were extracted in 80% acetone and the percentage
natant was used for the determination of CA. of Chl converted to pheophytin was estimated by
Activity of CA was determined in Wilbur–Anderson an increase in absorbance at A553 relative to the
unit following time-dependent reduction in pH absorbance at A665 (Bowler et al., 1991).
from 8.25 to 7.45 at 0–3 1C. The Unit [U] of enzyme
activity was calculated according to the formula Determination of TBARS content, electrolyte
U ¼ 10ðT  T 0 Þ=T 0 , where T and T0 represent the leakage and H2O2 content
time required to change the pH from 8.25 to 7.45, Contents of TBARS were measured according to
with and without the extract of crude enzyme, Cakmak and Horst (1991) by recording absorbance
respectively. The enzyme activity was presented as at A532 and corrected for non-specific turbidity by
U per mg protein. subtracting the absorbance at A600. The TBARS
Rubisco activity was determined spectrophotome- content was calculated using its extinction coeffi-
trically by monitoring NADH oxidation at 30 1C and cient of 155 mM1 cm1.
A340 (Usuda, 1985). Leaf samples were homogenized For measuring electrolyte leakage, samples were
in a chilled mortar with ice-cold extraction buffer thoroughly washed with sterile water to get rid of
solution containing 0.25 M Tris–HCl (pH 7.8), 0.05 M surface adhered electrolyte and then kept in closed
MgCl2, 0.0025 M EDTA and 37.5 mg DTT. The homo- vials containing 10 mL of deionized water and
genate was centrifuged at 4 1C for 10 min at 10,000g. incubated at 25 1C for 6 h on a shaker and
The resulting supernatant was used for assay of the consequently electrical conductivity was deter-
enzyme. The reaction mixture contained 100 mM mined (C1). Samples were then kept at 90 1C for
Tris–HCl (pH 8.0), 40 mM NaHCO3, 10 mM MgCl2, 2 h and the electrical conductivity was obtained
0.2 mM NADH, 4 mM ATP, 0.2 mM EDTA, 5 mM DTT, 1 U after attaining equilibrium at 25 1C (C2). Electrolyte
of glyceraldehyde 3-phosphodehydrogenase and 1 U leakage was calculated using the following equa-
of 3-phosphoglycerate kinase. The activity was tion:
estimated after the addition of enzyme extract Percent electrolyte leakage ð%Þ ¼ ðC1 =C2 Þ  100.
and 0.2 mM ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate (RuBP). En-
zyme activity was expressed as mmol CO2 fixed The assay of H2O2 was made following Okuda
min1 mg1 protein. Estimation of protein was done et al. (1991). Leaves (0.5 g) were ground in ice-cold
according to Bradford (1976) using bovine serum 200 mM perchloric acid. After centrifugation at
albumin as standard. 1200g for 10 min, perchloric acid of the supernatant
was neutralized with 4 M KOH. The insoluble
potassium perchlorate was eliminated by centrifu-
Pigment analysis
gation at 500g for 3 min. The reaction was started
by the addition of peroxidase and increase in the
Determination of chlorophyll content
absorbance was recorded at A590 for 3 min.
Chlorophyll was extracted from freshly sampled
leaves using the DMSO method based on Barnes
et al. (1992). Chl absorption in the extract was Extraction and estimation of antioxidative
measured using UV-VIS spectrophotometer. Content enzymes
of the Chl was calculated from the following The overall procedures were carried out at 4 1C
formulae taken from Barnes et al. (1992): unless otherwise mentioned. Leaf tissue was
ground in chilled mortar using different specific
Chl a ¼ 14:85A664:9  5:14A648:2 , buffers and pH values for each enzyme.
4 M. Mobin, N.A. Khan

Homogenates were squeezed through four layers of Data analysis

cheesecloth and centrifuged at 15,000g in a cooling Analysis of variance (ANOVA) for all the measured
centrifuge at 4 1C for 15 min. Supernatants ob- variables was performed by SPSS Ver. 10, Inc.,
tained were used for enzyme determinations. SOD Chicago, USA. The treatment means were sepa-
activity was assayed by monitoring the inhibition of rated using Duncan’s multiple range test (DMRT)
photochemical reduction of nitroblue tetrazolium taking Po0:05 as significant.
(NBT) according to Giannopolitis and Ries (1977).
The extraction buffer consisted of 50 mM phosphate
buffer (pH 7.8) containing 0.1% (w/v) BSA, 0.1% (w/ Results
v) as ascorbate and 0.05% (w/v) b-mercaptoetha-
nol. The photoreduction of NBT (production of blue The Cd concentration in roots and leaves was
formazan) was measured at A560 and an inhibition greater in RH-30 than Varuna at all Cd treatments
curve was made against different volumes of the (Fig. 1A and B).
extract. One unit of SOD was defined as the amount Significant reductions were found in photosyn-
of enzyme required to cause 50% inhibition of the thetic parameters with all Cd treatments in both
reduction of NBT at A560. CAT activity was assayed the cultivars (Table 1). PN was 3.5%, 30.9% and
following the degradation of H2O2 (extinction 35.5% less in Varuna and 4.7%, 35.0% and 50.0% less
coefficient 39.4 mM1 cm1) at 25 1C according to in RH-30 with 25, 50 and 100 mg Cd kg1 soil,
Chaparro-Giraldo et al. (2000) with minor modifica- respectively, compared to the control. gS and
tions. Leaf samples were homogenized in a buffer E were significantly enhanced at 50 and
composed of 100 mM potassium phosphate buffer 100 mg Cd kg1 soil in RH-30, but in Varuna the
(pH 7.5), containing 1 mM EDTA, 3 mM DTT and 5% changes in gS and E were non-significant (Table 1).
insoluble PVP (w/v). The reaction was initiated by Increasing Cd concentration depressed the activ-
the addition of leaf extract and the activity was ities of CA and Rubisco in general, but the
measured by monitoring degradation of H2O2 at
A240 over 1 min, against a leaf extract free blank.
600 Root (A) a
For determination of APX activity, leaf samples 0 Cd
Cadmium content (µg g-1DW)

25 Cd
were extracted in the buffer containing 50 mM 500 50 Cd
potassium phosphate buffer (pH 7.0), 1 mM EDTA 100 Cd
and 1% PVP (w/v) with the addition of 1 mM 400
ascorbic acid. APX activity was estimated according
to Nakano and Asada (1981) by following the 300
reduction in a reaction mixture at A290 (extinction
coefficient 2.8 mM1 cm1). The reaction was c
started by the addition of enzyme extract. For 100
non-enzymatic oxidation of ascorbate, correction d
was made by H2O2. The leaf samples for estimation 0
of GR were extracted in 100 mM potassium phos- 100
phate buffer (pH 7.0) containing 1 mM Na2-EDTA Leaf (B)
Cadmium content (µg g-1DW)

and 4% polyclar AT (w/v). Activity of GR was

determined following the method of Sgherri et al.
(1994) by measuring decrease in absorbance at A340 a
and using extinction coefficient of 6.2 mM1 cm1. 60
The reaction was started with the addition of
NADPH. This method does not require correction 40 b
for GSSH-independent NADH oxidation.
20 c
Cadmium determination
d c
Root and leaf samples were immersed in 5 mM 0
CaCl2 solution for 5 min, rinsed in distilled water, Varuna RH-30
desorbed and blotted (Meuwly and Rauser, 1992) Figure 1. Cadmium contents of root (A) and leaf (B) of
for Cd determination. Cd concentration was esti- Varuna (high photosynthetic capacity) and RH-30 (low
mated after digesting the sample in nitric:perchlo- photosynthetic capacity) cultivars of mustard (Brassica
ric acid (3:1, v/v). Cd concentration was juncea L.) treated with cadmium concentrations. Results
determined by atomic absorption spectrophoto- are means of five replications7SE. The data followed by
meter (Perkin-Elmer A, Analyst, 300). different letters are significantly different at Pp0:05.
Photosynthesis and oxidative stress in cadmium-treated mustard 5

Table 1. Chlorophyll (Chl) a, Chl b, Chl a:b, anthocyanin, percent pheophytin, carbonic anhydrase (CA) activity, ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase (Rubisco), rate






reduction in the activity of Rubisco was greater in

RH-30 at 50 and 100 mg Cd kg1 soil compared to

Varuna. Reduction in the activity of CA was 11.9%,
34.9% and 45.0% in Varuna, while 18.9%, 38.1% and

62.9% in RH-30 with 25, 50 and 100 mg Cd kg1 soil,
of photosynthesis (PN), stomatal conductance (gS) and transpiration rate (E) of two cultivars of mustard (Brassica juncea L.) exposed to cadmium stress

respectively, compared to the control. The inhibi-

Each value represents mean of five replicates7SE. Means were compared using ANOVA. Data followed by different letters in a row are significantly different at Pp0:05.



tion in the activity of Rubisco was 22.7%, 48.6% and

55.0% in Varuna and 30.7%, 50.0% and 72.0% in RH-
30 as the Cd concentration increased from 25 to
RH-30 (Low photosynthetic capacity)


100 mg Cd kg1 soil in comparison to the control

(Table 1).



Total Chl decreased with increasing Cd concen-

trations in the soil. The reduction in Chl content
was 20.0%, 35.0% and 50.0% in Varuna and 31.0%,
43.0% and 57.0% in RH-30 at 25, 50 and

100 mg Cd kg1 soil, respectively, compared to the


control. Decrease in Chl a content was almost



similar in both the cultivars. The reduction in Chl a

was 15.0%, 29.0% and 56.0% in Varuna and 24.0%,

33.0% and 49.0% in RH-30 with 25, 50 and
100 mg Cd kg1 soil, respectively, in comparison to

the control. The decline in Chl b was more than Chl






a. It decreased to 32.0%, 48.0% and 70.0% in

3327 9c

Varuna, and 46.0%, 62.0% and 74.0% in RH-30 with

25, 50 and 100 mg Cd kg1 soil, respectively, in

comparison to the control. Cd treatment affected

Chl b more than Chl a, and therefore Chl a:b ratio






was higher at higher Cd concentration in the soil.


Chl a:b ratio in Varuna was 2.1, 2.7, 2.9 and 4.6,
while in RH-30, the ratio was 2.9, 2.0, 3.6 and 4.1
Varuna (High photosynthetic capacity)

with 0, 25, 50 and 100 mg Cd kg1 soil (Table 1). The


relative amount of anthocyanin increased signifi-

cantly up to 50 mg Cd kg1 soil in both the cultivars.



The absolute value was equal when there was no Cd


but the relative amount of anthocyanin increased

by 38.0%, 136.0% and 53.0% in Varuna and 44.0%,

82.0% and 28.0% in RH-30 with 25, 50 and

100 mg Cd kg1 soil in comparison to the control.



An increase in pheophytin was observed in both the


cultivars with increasing Cd concentration. How-

ever, no significant increase was noted beyond
50 mg Cd kg1 soil in RH-30 (Table 1).

The TBARS content increased by 19.7%, 217.0%

Cadmium (Cd) treatments (mg kg1 soil)

Rubisco (mmol CO2 mg1 protein min1)

and 230.0% in comparison to the control in Varuna

with 25, 50 and 100 mg Cd kg1 soil. However, the
increase in the TBARS in RH-30 was 53.0%, 282.0%
Anthocyanin (A530–0.25A667 g1)

and 307.0% in the respective Cd treatments in

comparison to the control (Fig. 2A). The degree of
membrane disruption as represented by electrolyte
leakage increased by 187.0% and 372.0% in Varuna
CA (U mg1 protein)
Percent pheophytin

gs (mmol m2 s1)

PN (mmol m2 s1)

E (mmol m2 s1)

and 83.0% and 308.0% in RH-30 with 25 and

Chl b (mg g1)

50 mg Cd kg1 soil in comparison to the control,

Chl a (mg g1)

respectively. However, the release of electrolytes

was less at 100 mg Cd kg1 soil, which was 47.0% in
Chl a:b

Varuna and 96.0% in RH-30 (Fig. 2B). The produc-

tion of H2O2 in the Varuna increased by 120.0%,
6 M. Mobin, N.A. Khan

50 0 Cd (A) a 100 mg Cd kg1 soil, respectively, in comparison to

TBARS content (nmolg-1 FW)
25 Cd the control plants (Fig. 3B). The activity of APX in
50 Cd a
40 100 Cd
a the control plants was higher in Varuna compared
to RH-30. APX activity was enhanced by 215.0%,
30 369.0% and 328.0% in Varuna and 161.0%, 230.0%
and 303.0% in RH-30 in comparison to the control
20 b
b with 25, 50, 100 mg Cd kg1 soil (Fig. 3C). GR
b c
activity was higher in Varuna than RH-30 even
without Cd treatment. The increase in GR activity
0 was 122.0%, 144.0% and 136.0% with 25, 50 and
100 mg Cd kg1 soil for Varuna, and 124.0%, 132.0%
(B) a and 79.0% for RH-30, respectively, in comparison to
7 the control (Fig. 3D).
Electrolyte leakage (%)

b b Discussion
2 c
Plant species and genotypes significantly differ in
1 d
d the uptake of Cd and its subsequent translocation
0 from roots into shoots (Metwally et al., 2005; Salt
et al., 1995). In our study, Varuna accumulated less
(C) a a
300 Cd in both roots and leaves than RH-30 (Fig. 1A and
B). The accumulation of Cd in roots and shoots
H2O2 (µmol g-1 FW)

depends on binding to extracellular matrix (Horst,

200 ab
a 1995), complexing inside the cell (Cobbett et al.,
1998) and on the transport efficiency (Marchiol
et al., 1996). Further, the transport efficiency
100 c
relies on transpiration rate and thereby on stomatal
conductance. It was observed that exposure to Cd
50 influenced the stomatal conductance and transpira-
tion rate in both the cultivars, but to a significantly
Varuna RH-30 greater extent in RH-30. Likewise, net photosyn-
thetic rate was affected by Cd stress. It has been
Figure 2. TBARS content (A), % electrolyte leakage (B)
and H2O2 content (C) in leaves of Varuna (high photo-
shown that light and dark reactions of photosynth-
synthetic capacity) and RH-30 (low photosynthetic esis are suppressed by heavy metals at different
capacity) cultivars of mustard (Brassica juncea L.) target sites (Krupa and Baszynski, 1995). In RH-30,
treated with cadmium concentrations. Results are means the decrease in the rate of photosynthesis in
of five replications7SE. The data followed by different response to Cd treatment was accompanied by an
letters are significantly different at Pp0:05. increase in the stomatal conductance but in Varuna
it remains unaltered (Table 1). The present result
indicates that activities of CA and Rubisco declined
131.0% and 146.0% in 25, 50 and 100 mg Cd kg1 in both the cultivars, but Varuna maintained higher
soil, while the increase in H2O2 in RH-30 was levels of these enzymes than RH-30 at all Cd
134.0%, 248.0% and 250.0%, respectively, in com- treatments. Hence, the mechanism of photosyn-
parison to the control (Fig. 2C). thetic response involved both stomatal and non-
Cd treatment of plants enhanced the SOD activity stomatal effects under Cd stress. Siedlecka et al.
in Varuna as well as in RH-30. The enzyme activity (1997) reported that Cd affects photosynthesis by
was increased by 118.0%, 145.0% and 142.0% in inhibiting different reaction steps of Calvin-cycle.
Varuna, whereas the increase was 169.0%, 190.0%, However, Di Cagno et al. (2001) observed significant
and 193.0% in RH-30 with 25, 50 and 100 mg Cd kg1 reduction in CO2-assimilation rate and Rubisco
soil, respectively, in comparison to the control activity while stomatal conductance and Fv:Fm
(Fig. 3A). CAT and APX mediate in scavenging high ratio remain unchanged when sunflower plants
levels of H2O2. The level of induction in CAT activity were grown in the presence of Cd.
was 141.0%, 142.0% and 134.0% in Varuna and The decrease in total Chl, Chl a and Chl b was in a
104.0%, 128.0% and 176.0% in RH-30 with 25, 50 and dose-dependent manner in both the cultivars. The
Photosynthesis and oxidative stress in cadmium-treated mustard 7

16 240
(A) (B)
Varuna Varuna
RH-30 220 RH-30
SOD Units (mg-1protein min-1)

CAT Units (mg-1protein min-1)


6 120

4 100
0 25 50 100 0 25 50 100
Cadmium (mg kg-1 soil) -1
Cadmium (mg kg soil)

(C) (D)
2.8 Varuna Varuna
RH-30 0.24
APX Units (mg-1protein min-1)


2.0 GR Units (mg-1protein min-1) 0.20



0.0 0.08
0 25 50 100 0 25 50 100
-1 -1
Cadmium (mg kg soil) Cadmium (mg kg soil)

Figure 3. SOD (A), CAT (B), APX (C) and GR (D) activities in leaves of Varuna (high photosynthetic capacity) and RH-30
(low photosynthetic capacity) cultivars of mustard (Brassica juncea L.) treated with cadmium concentrations. Results
are means of five replications7SE. The data followed by different letters are significantly different at Pp0:05.

reduction in Chl b was extremely sharp in Varuna et al., 1995, 2002; Krupa et al., 1996). The
which resulted in higher Chl a:b ratio as anthocyanin synthesis takes place in cytoplasm,
the concentration of Cd increased in the soil rapidly transported into the cell vacuoles (Marrs
(Table 1). The increases in the ratio of Chl a:b et al., 1995) and is not in direct contact with the
have been linked with the change in pigment stress-generated activated oxygen species. In fact,
composition of photosynthetic apparatus which cytosolic and organelle-bound antioxidants act as a
possesses lower level of light harvesting chlorophyll primary cellular defense system rather than the
proteins (LHCPs) (Loggini et al., 1999). The reduc- vacuolar anthocyanins. Our findings indicate that
tion in LHCPs content is an adaptive defense accumulation of anthocyanins may be only of
mechanism of chloroplasts, leaves and plants which secondary importance in living cells. Nonetheless,
allows them to endure the adverse conditions induction of anthocyanin accumulation might help
(Asada et al., 1998). in the protection of photosynthetic apparatus by
Induction of higher level of relative amount of screening it from deleterious effects of stress-
anthocyanin in response to Cd stress was observed generated superoxide radicals without limiting
in both the cultivars (Table 1), although it increased photosynthesis. Percent pheophytin remained rela-
greatly in Varuna in comparison to RH-30. Several tively much higher in RH-30 than Varuna at higher
attempts have been made to explain the accumula- Cd concentration in the soil, but at lower Cd level
tion of anthocyanin in leaves under stress (Gould percent conversion of chlorophyll to pheophytin
8 M. Mobin, N.A. Khan

was almost identical in both the cultivars (Table 1). scavenging system, i.e. GR, CAT and APX and
Küpper et al. (1996) carried out experiments with increased activity of SOD (Fig. 3A–D), which
submerged water plants and observed that the catalyzes the conversion of superoxide anion to
substitution of Mg2+ ion in the chlorophyll molecule O2 and H2O2 (Sudhakar et al., 2001). There was
by toxic heavy metals, such as Cu, Zn, Cd or Hg, more pronounced increase in the SOD activity in
resulted in an abrupt cessation of photosynthesis. RH-30 with the increase in Cd levels, which possibly
Although Cd is not a transition metal like Fe and Cu, generated higher level of superoxide radicals and
and therefore, it is not capable of generating AOS resulted in higher cellular damage in comparison to
by catalyzing Haber–Weiss or Fenton type reactions Varuna. Gossett et al. (1994) reported that higher
(Deckert, 2005). Nevertheless, Cd toxicity results SOD activity without complementary increase in
from the alteration of oxidant levels in plants the ability to scavenge the formed H2O2 can result
(Foyer and Noctor, 2005). Accumulation of Cd was in the increased cellular damage.
correlated with the generation of AOS in sensitive The detoxification of H2O2 takes place by
clones of Holcus lanatus (Hendry et al., 1992). Cd involvement of ascorbate–glutathione cycle, where
has been shown to elevate lipid peroxidation via H2O2 sends a systemic signal for the induction of
AOS formation in plants (Halliwell and Gutteridge, APX (Karpinski et al., 1999). In the present study,
1989). Cd-dependent induction of TBARS was the comparison of the absolute enzymatic values in
observed in the leaves of both the cultivars the Cd stressed RH-30 plants indicated that APX
(Fig. 2A), which is an index of lipid peroxidation level kept on increasing with the increasing levels
and thereby oxidative stress. It has been observed of Cd while in Varuna the sub-lethal concentration
that exposure to Cd increased lipid peroxidation in of Cd in the soil induced the maximum level of APX.
Pisum sativum (Chaoui et al., 1997; Metwally et al., The increase in CAT activity is considered as an
2005), rice (Chien et al., 2001) and sunflower indirect evidence of an enhanced oxidative damage
seedlings (Gallego et al., 1996). The production of (Smirnoff, 1995). We found dose-dependent in-
lipid peroxides was lower in Varuna compared to crease of CAT activity, which further indicated the
RH-30 at all Cd concentrations. This could be oxidative damage from Cd treatments in both the
explained in terms of higher degree of protection cultivars. Varuna was found to possess higher level
against oxidative damage in Varuna by fast removal of CAT activity both constitutively and inductively.
of H2O2 or by other scavenging systems. The However, the CAT activity was found to be induced
enhancement in the activities of antioxidative nearly 1.5 times more in RH-30 than in Varuna
enzymes was negatively correlated with the level at 100 mg Cd kg1 soil, which further pointed
of TBARS content. towards increased oxidative stress experienced
As a sequel to Cd-catalyzed AOS generation, by RH-30.
disruption of membrane stability, enhanced perme- GR catalyzes the last rate-limiting step of
ability and inactivation of proteins take place ascorbate–glutathione cycle. This enzyme main-
(De Vos et al., 1993). The increase in TBARS tained high ratio of GSH/GSSG which is required for
content in the present study induced electrolyte the regeneration of ascorbate and for the activa-
leakage in a dose-dependent manner (Fig. 2B). The tion of several CO2-fixing enzymes (Noctor and
enhanced cellular damage in RH-30 seems to reflect Foyer, 1998). Contrary to APX gene expression,
deterioration on the equilibrium between genera- which is activated by H2O2, GR is stimulated by
tion of AOS and defense mechanisms towards different stimuli (Schützendübel et al., 2001). This
removal of AOS. The electrolyte leakage through is well correlated in the present study, where the
plasmalemma has been associated with depressed constitutive and Cd-induced GR activity was re-
photosynthetic and mitochondrial activity (Ristic markably higher in Varuna. The reduction in GR
et al., 1996). activity of RH-30 was prominent at 100 mg Cd kg1
H2O2 generation is induced in plants following soil. The cooperative action of APX and GR in
exposure to a wide variety of abiotic and biotic Varuna suggested the presence of more efficient
stimuli (Karpinski et al., 1999; Lamb and Dixon, ascorbate–glutathione cycle, which resulted in the
1997). The level of H2O2 was lower in Varuna than development of higher tolerance to Cd.
RH-30 even in the presence of Cd, which implies It is concluded that deleterious effect of Cd-
that the generation of H2O2 was quenched by the generated AOS on photosynthetic characteristics
efficient antioxidative mechanism of Varuna. In RH- was more conspicuous in RH-30 than Varuna.
30, the level of H2O2 increased in a dose-dependent The greater tolerance in Varuna to Cd was due to
manner (Fig. 2C), which is indicative of higher better synergies between the antioxidative
oxidative stress imposed by Cd in soil. It is most enzymes which help to protect the photosynthetic
likely that the presence of Cd inhibited the H2O2- apparatus.
Photosynthesis and oxidative stress in cadmium-treated mustard 9

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