Chinese Acad Sci, Inst Hydrobiol, State Key Lab Freshwater Ecol & Biotechnol, Wuhan 430072, Peoples R China; Univ Cologne, Inst Bot, D-50931 Cologne, Germany
Goal, Scope and Background. As one of the consequences of heavy metal pollution in soil, water and air, plants are contaminated by heavy metals in some parts of China. To understand the effects of heavy metals upon plants and the resistance mechanisms, would make it possible to use plants for cleaning and remediating heavy metal-polluted sites. Methods. The research results on the effects of heavy metals on plants and resistant mechanisms are compiled from Chinese publications from scientific journals and university journals, mostly published during the last decade. Results and Discussion. Effects of heavy metals on plants result in growth inhibition, structure damage, a decline of physiological and biochemical activities as well as of the function of plants. The effects and bioavailability of heavy metals depend on many factors, such as environmental conditions, pH, species of element, organic substances of the media and fertilization, plant species. But, there are also studies on plant resistance mechanisms to protect plants against the toxic effects of heavy metals such as combining heavy metals by proteins and expressing of detoxifying enzyme and nucleic acid, these mechanisms are integrated to protect the plants against injury by heavy metals. Conclusions. There are two aspects on the interaction of plants and heavy metals. On one hand, heavy metals show negative effects on plants. On the other hand, plants have their own resistance mechanisms against toxic effects and for detoxifying heavy metal pollution. Recommendations and Outlook. To study the effects of heavy metals on plants and mechanisms of resistance, one must select crop cultivars and/or plants for removing heavy metals from soil and water. More highly resistant plants can be selected especially for a remediation of the pollution site. The molecular mechanisms of resistance of plants to heavy metals should be studied further to develop the actual resistance of these plants to heavy metals. Understanding the bioavailability of heavy metals is advantageous for plant cultivation and phytoremediation. Decrease in the bioavailability to farmlands would reduce the accumulation of heavy metals in food. Alternatively, one could increase the bioavailability of plants to extract more heavy metals.