Zinc compartmentation in Halimione portulacoides (L.) Aellen and some effects on leaf ultrastructure

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The halophyte Halimione portulacoides collected in a polluted area of the river Sado estuary (Portugal) and obtained from hydroponic cultures was used to evaluate the compartmentation of Zn and its preferential binding sites. In parallel, we tried to assess if the minimum available Zn concentration found in marsh soil induces changes at the ultrastructural level.

Materials and methods
A sequential extraction method was used to study the Zn compartmentation within the cell. Both dried plant samples and extracts/residues from compartmentation studies were digested by HNO3–HClO4 (4:1) until dryness and analyzed by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Segments of young leaves, previously exposed to Zn were fixed in glutaraldehyde and osmium tetroxide. Ultrathin sections were stained and examined by transmission electron microscopy at 80 kV.

Results and discussion
Proteins and carbohydrates of the cell walls constitute preferential binding sites of Zn, containing between 25% and 33% and between 30% and 40% of the total, respectively. Hydroponic plants accumulate Zn in their leaves up to (194 μg g−1) without visible damage or changes in the protein and chlorophyll concentrations, compared with the controls. Chlorenchyma chloroplasts of Zn-treated plants exhibited an unusual number of starch grains, which can be seen as an alert mechanism.

Conclusions and perspectives
Although so far the levels of Zn in the leaves within the studied area have not reached high values, monitoring them remains a priority. Also, issues related with starch synthesis and organic ligands must be evaluated. The understanding of the predictable behavior of this halophyte is our main goal, and the results here presented can contribute to this achievement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2644-2657
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


  • Halophytes
  • Zn compartmentation
  • Binding sites
  • Zn effects
  • Transmission electron microscopy
  • Sequential elution technique


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