Environmental and Experimental Botany
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Plants have the potential to accumulate toxic amounts of cadmium (Cd), and understanding how and where Cd is stored in plants is important for ensuring food safety. Previous experiments have determined that a greater amount of Cd is translocated into the leaves of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) as compared to barley leaves (Hordeum vulgare). Preferential retention of Cd in root of barley would explain this difference. Hence, the purpose of this study was to determine the localization and coordination environment of Cd (i.e., the ligands to which Cd was bound) in the different root tissues of lettuce and barley using histochemical staining, electron microscopy and micro X-ray spectroscopy. Retention of Cd in barley roots could be explained by accumulation of Cd at the endodermis, comparatively higher amounts of Cd sequestered in the symplast of cortical cells and binding to xylem cell walls. Increased translocation of Cd to lettuce shoots seemed to be due to a less effective barrier at the endodermis and less sequestration of Cd in the cortex. Regardless of the tissue type, most of the Cd2+ was bound to S ligands in the roots of barley, possibly reflecting accumulation of Cd–phytochelatin and Cd–S molecules in the vacuoles. In lettuce roots, Cd was more evenly distributed among ligands containing S, O and NO3 groups, which is indicative of proportionately more Cd binding to the cell walls, relative to barley. These results will be useful in uncovering the mechanisms of differential Cd-tolerance and sequestration in lettuce and barley.