Chromium speciation, bioavailability, uptake, toxicity and detoxification in soil-plant system: A review

Chemosphere. 2017 Jul;178:513-533. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.03.074. Epub 2017 Mar 24.


Chromium (Cr) is a potentially toxic heavy metal which does not have any essential metabolic function in plants. Various past and recent studies highlight the biogeochemistry of Cr in the soil-plant system. This review traces a plausible link among Cr speciation, bioavailability, phytouptake, phytotoxicity and detoxification based on available data, especially published from 2010 to 2016. Chromium occurs in different chemical forms (primarily as chromite (Cr(III)) and chromate (Cr(VI)) in soil which vary markedly in term of their biogeochemical behavior. Chromium behavior in soil, its soil-plant transfer and accumulation in different plant parts vary with its chemical form, plant type and soil physico-chemical properties. Soil microbial community plays a key role in governing Cr speciation and behavior in soil. Chromium does not have any specific transporter for its uptake by plants and it primarily enters the plants through specific and non-specific channels of essential ions. Chromium accumulates predominantly in plant root tissues with very limited translocation to shoots. Inside plants, Cr provokes numerous deleterious effects to several physiological, morphological, and biochemical processes. Chromium induces phytotoxicity by interfering plant growth, nutrient uptake and photosynthesis, inducing enhanced generation of reactive oxygen species, causing lipid peroxidation and altering the antioxidant activities. Plants tolerate Cr toxicity via various defense mechanisms such as complexation by organic ligands, compartmentation into the vacuole, and scavenging ROS via antioxidative enzymes. Consumption of Cr-contaminated-food can cause human health risks by inducing severe clinical conditions. Therefore, there is a dire need to monitor biogeochemical behavior of Cr in soil-plant system.

Keywords: Bioavailability; Chromium; Detoxification; Toxicity; Uptake.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability*
  • Chromium / chemistry
  • Chromium / pharmacokinetics
  • Chromium / toxicity*
  • Heavy Metal Poisoning
  • Humans
  • Inactivation, Metabolic
  • Metals, Heavy / chemistry
  • Photosynthesis / drug effects
  • Plant Development / drug effects
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • Plants / drug effects
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Poisoning
  • Soil Pollutants / chemistry*


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Chromium