Lysine metabolism and amino acid profile in maize grains from plants subjected to cadmium exposure
Keywords:Zea mays L., aspartate kinase, corn, dihydrodipicolinate synthase, heavy metal
In general, the effects of Cadmium (Cd) on crop quality are evaluated solely by Cd accumulation in the edible plant parts; thus, the potential effects on several nutritional features are not often taken into account. This study evaluated Cd effects on the enzymatic activities of lysine (Lys) metabolism, storage protein and amino acid profile in maize. Stress parameters were also assessed. In vegetative organs, Cd was accumulated in the following decreasing order: roots > stems > leaves. Cadmium accumulation in grains decreased at grain maturity (from 0.25 to 0.07 µg g–1 DW). In leaves, neither hydrogen peroxide content nor superoxide dismutase, catalase, ascorbate peroxide and guaiacol peroxidase activities did not change in Cd-treated plants compared to control plants. Lipid peroxidation was not detected in immature grains and leaves of plants under Cd exposure, indicating that Cd accumulation mainly in the roots is a mechanism to avoid oxidative stress in aboveground parts of the plant. However, Lys metabolism in immature grains was modified, showing increases in the specific activities of aspartate kinase (AK) and dihydrodipicolinate synthase (DHDPS) after Cd exposure. AK sensitivity to Lys feedback inhibition increased, but decreased in DHDPS in Cd-treated plants, suggesting differential regulation for these enzymes. In mature grains, the Lys content did not change, while the proline content increased by 54 % in Cd-treated plants. This is the first report on Cd effects on amino acid profile, storage protein contents and enzymes from Lys metabolism in grains of a cereal plant species.