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Like all life forms, plants suffer from high levels of mercury (Hg), known as one of the most harmful heavy metals in soil. The present study was performed to explore the effects of exogenous nitric oxide (NO) on Hg toxicity in maize (Zea mays L., cv. Arifiye-2) seedlings. Plants were grown in a hydroponic system containing 1/2 diluted Hoagland at 16 h day length, 25/20 °C (day/night) and 60% relative humidity. Eight day-old maize seedlings were first treated with NO (as 0.1 μM sodium nitroprusside) and then they were exposed to Hg toxicity (as 100 μM HgCl2) after 24 h. The toxic Hg decreased seedling growth, chlorophyll content, proline content, calcium and manganese contents, nonenzymatic antioxidant contents, cell membrane viscosity, and antioxidant enzyme activities (superoxide dismutase, catalase, peroxidases, and glutathione reductase) while it increased the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS)
such as hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and super oxide anion (O2.–), and lipid peroxidation (as malondialdehyde, MDA) content and the amount of sodium ion (Na+) in the seedlings. However, NO treatment markedly enhanced the growth parameters (dry and fresh weight, and plant height) and manganese and potassium contents as well as contents of antioxidants and chlorophyll thus alleviating the negative effects caused by the Hg stress. Also, it decreased the generation of ROS and lipid peroxidation level by activating the antioxidant enzymes. These results show that NO in maize seedlings under Hg toxicity may improve stress response and mitigate oxidative stress by stimulating the antioxidant system and modulating ion homeostasis.


antioxidant nitric oxide heavy metal Mercury endophytic fungus, heavy metals, oxidative stress, Panicum miliaceum (L.)

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How to Cite
Esim, N., Karaman, A., & Atıcı, O. (2024). Nitric oxide alleviates mercury toxicity by changing physiological and biochemical pathways in maize (Zea mays L.) seedlings. Acta Botanica Croatica, 83(1), 60–68.