Citric acid assisted phytoextraction of chromium by sunflower; morpho-physiological and biochemical alterations in plants

Mujahid Farid, Shafaqat Ali, Muhammad Rizwan, Qasim Ali, Farhat Abbas, Syed Asad Hussain Bukhari, Rashid Saeed, Longhua Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Citations (Scopus)


Soil and water contamination from heavy metals and metalloids is one of the most discussed and burning global issues due to its potential to cause the scarcity of healthy food and safe water. The scientific community is proposing a range of lab and field based physical, chemical and biological solutions to remedy metals and metalloids contaminated soils and water. The present study finds out a possibility of Chromium (Cr) extraction by sunflower from spiked soil under chelating role of citric acid (CA). The sunflower plants were grown under different concentrations of Cr (0, 5, 10 & 20 mg kg−1) and CA (0, 2.5 & 5 mM). Growth, biomass, gas exchange, photosynthesis, electrolyte leakage (EL), reactive oxygen species (ROS; malondialdehyde (MDA), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and the activities of antioxidant enzymes such as, superoxide dismutase (SOD), guaiacole values peroxidase (POD), ascorbate peroxidase (APX), catalase (CAT) were measured. The results depicted a clear decline in plant height, root length, leaf area, number of leaves and flowers per plant along with fresh and dry biomass of all parts of plant with increasing concentration of Cr in soil. Similar reduction was observed in chlorophyll a and b, total chlorophyll, carotenoids, soluble protein, gas exchange attributes and SPAD. The increasing concentration of Cr also enhanced the Cr uptake and accumulation in plant roots, stem and leaves along with the production of ROS and EL. The activities of antioxidant enzymes increased with increasing Cr concentration from 0 to 10 mg, but decreased at 20 mg kg−1 soil. The CA application significantly alleviated Cr-induced inhibition of plant growth, biomass, photosynthesis, gas exchange, soluble proteins and SPAD value. Presence of CA also enhanced the activities of all antioxidant enzymes and reduced the production of ROS and EL. The chelating potential of CA increased the concentration and accumulation of Cr in plant roots, stem and leaves. It is concluded that the sunflower can be a potential candidate for the remediation of Cr under CA treatment, while the possibility may vary with genotype, Cr level and CA concentration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-102
Number of pages13
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Accumulation
  • Alleviate
  • Chelator
  • Chromium
  • Photosynthetic pigments
  • Sunflower


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