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Phytotoxicity of individual and binary mixtures of rare earth elements (Y, La, and Ce) in relation to bioavailability

Gong, Bing, He, Erkai, Qiu, Hao, Li, Jianqiu, Ji, Jie, Zhao, Ling, Cao, Xinde
Environmental pollution 2019 v.246 pp. 114-121
Triticum aestivum, active sites, additive effect, bioavailability, ions, models, phytotoxicity, rare earth elements, root growth, roots, wheat
Rare earth elements (REEs) are typically present as mixtures in the environment, but a quantitative understanding of mixture toxicity and interactions of REEs is still lacking. Here, we examined the toxicity to wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) of Y, La, and Ce when applied individually and in combination. Both concentration addition (CA) and independent action (IA) reference models were used for mixture toxicity analysis because the toxicity mechanisms of REEs remain obscure. Upon single exposure, the EC50s of Y, La, and Ce, expressed as dissolved concentrations, were 1.73 ± 0.24 μM, 2.59 ± 0.23 μM, and 1.50 ± 0.22 μM, respectively. The toxicity measured with relative root elongation followed La < Y ≈ Ce, irrespective of the dose descriptors. The use of CA and IA provided similar estimates of REE mixture interactions and toxicity. When expressed as dissolved metal concentrations, nearly additive effects were observed in Y-La and La-Ce mixtures, while antagonistic interactions were seen in Y-Ce mixtures. When expressed as free metal activities, antagonistic interactions were found for all three binary mixtures. This can be explained by a competitive effect of REEs ions for binding to the active sites of plant roots. The application of a more elaborate MIXTOX model in conjunction with the free ion activities, which incorporates the non-additive interactions and bioavailability-modifying factors, well predicted the mixture toxicity (with >92% of toxicity variations explained). Our results highlighted the importance of considering mixture interactions and subsequent bioavailability in assessing the joint toxicity of REEs.