Characterization of heavy metal toxicity in some plants and microorganisms-A preliminary approach for environmental bioremediation

N Biotechnol. 2020 May 25;56:130-139. doi: 10.1016/j.nbt.2020.01.003. Epub 2020 Jan 13.


In situ bioremediation processes are important for control of pollution and clean-up of contaminated sites. The study and implementation of such processes can be designed through investigations on natural mechanisms of absorption, biotransformation, bioaccumulation and toxicity of pollutants in plants and microorganisms. Here, the phytotoxic effects of Cr(VI) and Cd(II) on seed germination and plant growth of Lepidium sativum have been examined at various concentrations (30-300 mg/L) in single ion solutions. The studies also addressed the ecotoxicity of metal ions on Azotobacter chroococcum and Pichia sp. isolated from soil. Microbial growth was estimated by weighing the dry biomass and determining the enzymatic activities of dehydrogenase and catalase. The results showed that Cr(VI) and Cd(II) can inhibit L. sativum seed germination and root development, depending on the metal ion and its concentration. The phytotoxic effect of heavy metals was also confirmed by the reduced amounts of dried biomass. Toxicity assays demonstrated the adverse effect of Cr(VI) and Cd(II) on growth of Azotobacter sp. and Pichia sp., manifested by a biomass decrease of more than 50 % at heavy metal concentrations of 150-300 mg/L. The results confirmed close links between phytotoxicity of metals and their bioavailability for phytoextraction. Studies on the bioremediation potential of soils contaminated with Cr(VI) and Cd(II) using microbial strains focusing on Azotobacter sp. and Pichia sp. showed that the microbes can only tolerate heavy metal stress at low concentrations. These investigations on plants and microorganisms revealed their ability to withstand metal toxicity and develop tolerance to heavy metals.

Keywords: Azotobacter sp.; Bioremediation; Cadmium; Chromium; Lepidium sativum; Metal toxicity; Pichia sp..

MeSH terms

  • Azotobacter / drug effects*
  • Azotobacter / growth & development
  • Azotobacter / isolation & purification
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Germination / drug effects*
  • Lepidium sativum / drug effects*
  • Lepidium sativum / growth & development
  • Metals, Heavy / toxicity*
  • Pichia / drug effects*
  • Pichia / growth & development
  • Pichia / isolation & purification
  • Seedlings / drug effects*
  • Soil Microbiology


  • Metals, Heavy

Supplementary concepts

  • Azotobacter chroococcum