Essential roles and hazardous effects of nickel in plants.Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 2011; 214:125-67RE
With the world's ever increasing human population, the issues related to environmental degradation of toxicant chemicals are becoming more serious. Humans have accelerated the emission to the environment of many organic and inorganic pollutants such as pesticides, salts, petroleum products, acids, heavy metals, etc. Among different environmental heavy-metal pollutants, Ni has gained considerable attention in recent years, because of its rapidly increasing concentrations in soil, air, and water in different parts of the world. The main mechanisms by which Ni is taken up by plants are passive diffusion and active transport. Soluble Ni compounds are preferably absorbed by plants passively, through a cation transport system; chelated Ni compounds are taken up through secondary, active-transport-mediated means, using transport proteins such as permeases. Insoluble Ni compounds primarily enter plant root cells through endocytosis. Once absorbed by roots, Ni is easily transported to shoots via the xylem through the transpiration stream and can accumulate in neonatal parts such as buds, fruits, and seeds. The Ni transport and retranslocation processes are strongly regulated by metal-ligand complexes (such as nicotianamine, histidine, and organic acids) and by some proteins that specifically bind and transport Ni. Nickel, in low concentrations, fulfills a variety of essential roles in plants, bacteria, and fungi. Therefore, Ni deficiency produces an array of effects on growth and metabolism of plants, including reduced growth, and induction of senescence, leaf and meristem chlorosis, alterations in N metabolism, and reduced Fe uptake. In addition, Ni is a constituent of several metallo-enzymes such as urease, superoxide dismutase, NiFe hydrogenases, methyl coenzyme M reductase, carbon monoxide dehydrogenase, acetyl coenzyme-A synthase, hydrogenases, and RNase-A. Therefore, Ni deficiencies in plants reduce urease activity, disturb N assimilation, and reduce scavenging of superoxide free radical. In bacteria, Ni participates in several important metabolic reactions such as hydrogen metabolism, methane biogenesis, and acetogenesis. Although Ni is metabolically important in plants, it is toxic to most plant species when present at excessive amounts in soil and in nutrient solution. High Ni concentrations in growth media severely retards seed germinability of many crops. This effect of Ni is a direct one on the activities of amylases, proteases, and ribonucleases, thereby affecting the digestion and mobilization of food reserves in germinating seeds. At vegetative stages, high Ni concentrations retard shoot and root growth, affect branching development, deform various plant parts, produce abnormal flower shape, decrease biomass production, induce leaf spotting, disturb mitotic root tips, and produce Fe deficiency that leads to chlorosis and foliar necrosis. Additionally, excess Ni also affects nutrient absorption by roots, impairs plant metabolism, inhibits photosynthesis and transpiration, and causes ultrastructural modifications. Ultimately, all of these altered processes produce reduced yields of agricultural crops when such crops encounter excessive Ni exposures.