Arsenic mitigates cadmium toxicity in rice seedlings
ABSTRACT Two contrasting rice (Oryza sativa L.) cultivars, i.e. Wuyujing 3 (WYJ3, Cd-tolerant) and Shanyou 63 (SY63, Cd-sensitive), were grown on a red soil (Ultisol) to study both individual and combined phytotoxicity of arsenic (As) and cadmium (Cd) in terms of Cd and As availability, their uptake and accumulation, antioxidant defense activity and oxidative damage. The antioxidant defense system examined in this study included enzymatic and non-enzymatic molecular antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), peroxidase (POD), glutathione (GSH) and ascorbic acid (AsA). Results showed that As or Cd treatment decreased root and shoot biomass in both cultivars compared with their corresponding control (no Cd or As treatment), although less severe inhibition of plant growth was observed in WYJ3 than in SY63. Moreover, rice growth was inhibited more severely by Cd treatment than by As treatment, which could be explained by the higher amount of available Cd (60%) (0.1 M HCl-extractable Cd) compared to the lower amount of available As (15%) (0.5 M NaH2PO4-extractable As) in their postharvest soils. However, shoot biomass in cultivar SY63, and root and shoot biomass in cultivar WYJ3 were significantly higher in the As plus Cd treatment than in the Cd treatment alone, showing that the combined toxicity of these two heavy metals was not additive and on the contrary, As mitigated Cd-induced growth inhibition. The As plus Cd treatment also significantly decreased As or Cd concentrations both in roots and in shoots of the two rice cultivars compared with the As or Cd treatment alone, respectively. On the other hand, treatment with As or Cd alone significantly decreased the SOD and POD activities, and GSH and AsA concentrations, while the activities of these enzymes and the concentrations of GSH and AsA were significantly higher in the As plus Cd treatment than in the Cd treatment alone, resulting in less severe oxidative damage as indicated by the lower concentration of MDA in the As plus Cd treatment (P < 0.05). However, no significant difference was observed in the antioxidant defense activity between the As plus Cd treatment and the As treatment alone. These results suggest that the combined toxicity of As and Cd in rice is lower than that of individual Cd or As, which might be attributed to the decreased uptake and accumulation of Cd and As, and the less oxidative stress caused by the interactive effects of As with Cd both in rhizosphere and in plants.