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Tissue level distribution of toxic and essential elements during the germination stage of corn seeds (Zea mays, L.) using LA-ICP-MS

Gaiss, Shelby, Amarasiriwardena, Dulasiri, Alexander, David, Wu, Fengchang
Environmental pollution 2019 v.252 pp. 657-665
Zea mays, antimony, arsenic, bioaccumulation, cadmium, coleoptiles, crops, endosperm, farms, germination, leaves, mercury, mined soils, pericarp, popcorn, roots, seeds, shoots, sustainable agriculture, tomatoes, toxicity, zinc, China
Both essential and toxic metal contaminants impact agricultural crops by bioaccumulation in plants. The goal of this study was to evaluate the tissue-level spatial distribution of metal(loids) in corn seeds (Zea mays, L.) from contaminated corn fields near the Xikuangshan (XKS) antimony mine in Hunan, China, and compared them with corn (Zea mays everta L., popcorn) grown in a farm in Amherst, MA that practices sustainable farming as a control. How toxic and essential metals translocate through the roots and shoots during early stages of germination was also investigated. The cleaned corn seed samples were mounted in resin blocks and longitudinally dissected into thin sections. The laser ablation parameters were optimized, and the instrument was calibrated using tomato leaf standard reference material (NIST SRM 1573a) in a pellet form. Tissue level distributions of metal(loid)s As, Cd, Hg, Sb and Zn in corn seeds collected were determined using (LA-ICP-MS). Seeds from the control farm were germinated and their roots and shoots were analyzed to determine tissue level concentrations and their spatial distributions. It was found that seeds from the XKS mine region in China had higher overall concentration of all elements analyzed due to metal(loids) absorbed from contaminated mine soils. Metal(loids) concentrations were highest in the embryo (∼360 mg/kg) and pericarp (∼0.48 mg/kg) compared with the endosperm of corn seeds. Essential element Zn was found in the embryo and emerging coleoptile and radicle. Finally, in both roots and shoots, element concentrations were highest proximally to the tip cap compared to distal concentrations and later translocated to distal tissue regions. This study offers unique insights of metal(loid) bioaccumulation and translocation in corn and thus is better able to track metal(loids) contaminants trafficking in our food systems.