Environmental Science

Root Down

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Science  21 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6177, pp. 1291
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6177.1291-c

Owing to their remarkable ability to uptake and translocate compounds using their roots, plants have long been considered a possible means of treating contaminated soils. However, this ability also provides an avenue by which organic contaminants such as pesticides and herbicides may be introduced into the food chain, an issue of great concern in the fields of public and ecosystem health. Collecting data in the field is a robust but slow way to assess exposure pathways, so a more efficient way to do that would be of great value. Limmer and Burken applied a predictive model, based originally on the uptake and translocation of pharmaceuticals and other compounds in human tissues, to plant roots and trace organic contaminants. As expected, hydrophocity and molecular mass of the organic compounds are two major predictive physiochemical domains of uptake, but a number of other factors, including hydrogen bonding and polar surface area, also are important. Because plant membranes behave in a fashion similar to human membranes such as the blood-brain barrier, plant roots may serve as the primary protective barrier from exposure to unwanted organic compounds.

Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 10.1021/ez400214q (2014).

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