Chinese researchers have found melatonin, an important biological hormone in wheat, can prevent heavy metal toxicity and improve growth.
The breakthrough has provided a new means to mitigate soil pollution by heavy metals.
Heavy metal pollution is a challenge in agricultural production. The heavy metal cadmium can not only decrease the growth and yield of wheat, but also threaten the health of humans and animals after it accumulates in plants and seeds.
Researchers found there are a series of genes for melatonin synthesis in wheat seedlings. The expression levels of these genes and melatonin synthesis begin increasing after they are exposed to cadmium. Increased melatonin can further activate two antioxidant enzymes, APX and SOD, which can help alleviate the cadmium toxicity and promote root growth.
The research, led by Wu Lifang at Hefei Institutes of Physical Science under Chinese Academy of Sciences, was recently published in the international journal Molecules.