The bioaccumulation of arsenic by plants may provide a means of removing this element from contaminated soils and waters. However, to optimize this process it is important to understand the biological mechanisms involved. Using a combination of techniques, including x-ray absorption spectroscopy, we have established the biochemical fate of arsenic taken up by Indian mustard (Brassica juncea). After arsenate uptake by the roots, possibly via the phosphate transport mechanism, a small fraction is exported to the shoot via the xylem as the oxyanions arsenate and arsenite. Once in the shoot, the arsenic is stored as an As-III-tris-thiolate complex. The majority of the arsenic remains in the roots as an As-III-tris-thiolate complex, which is indistinguishable from that found in the shoots and from As-III-tris-glutathione. The thiolate donors are thus probably either glutathione or phytochelatins. The addition of the dithiol arsenic chelator dimercaptosuccinate to the hydroponic culture medium caused a 5-fold-increased arsenic level in the leaves, although the total arsenic accumulation was only marginally increased. This suggests that the addition of dimercaptosuccinate to arsenic-contaminated soils may provide a way to promote arsenic bioaccumulation in plant shoots, a process that will be essential for the development of an efficient phytoremediation strategy for this element.
- ray-absorption spectroscopy