How can a rare protected plant cope with the metal and metalloid soil pollution resulting from past industrial activities? Phytometabolites, antioxidant activities and root symbiosis involved in the metal tolerance of Astragalus tragacantha


  • Salducci Marie-Dominique
  • Folzer Hélène
  • Rabier Jacques
  • Issartel Julien
  • Masotti Veronique
  • Prudent Pascale
  • Affre Laurence
  • Hardion Laurent
  • Tatoni Thierry
  • Laffont-Schwob Isabelle


  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Proline
  • Root symbiosis
  • Heavy metals
  • Plant growth
  • Seed germination

document type



Astragalus tragacantha is a protected plant species in France that grows even in the trace metal and metalloid (TMM) polluted soils of the Calanques National Park (PNCal). Soils are mainly contaminated by lead, copper, zinc and arsenic. An ex situ experiment was conducted, firstly to determine the molecular responses and root traits involved in the TMM tolerance of this plant species by growing individuals in a soil from the surroundings of one of the brownfields of the PNCal, known as l’Escalette, where this plant species grows spontaneously. Secondly, in order to determine the plasticity of these responses, seeds were collected from three different populations, one at l’Escalette (polluted site), one from the Frioul archipelago (non-polluted, insular site) and one from La Seyne (non-polluted, littoral site). The results of this study confirmed the capacity of A. tragacantha to germinate and grow in TMM contaminated soils. Only moderate significant variations in chlorophyll and flavonol indices, proline content and antioxidant activities were detected between polluted and control soil conditions for all populations. The main driver for A. tragacantha TMM tolerance seemed to be its ability to be associated with root symbionts i.e. arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and dark septate endophytes, corresponding to a nutrient-uptake strategy trait. This work provides support for the challenge of A. tragacantha conservation along the littoral of the PNCal, because increasing the number of A. tragacantha individuals would both increase vegetation cover of the polluted soils to reduce the pollution transfer and reinforce the populations of this species.

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