The aim of the present paper was to understand the specific mechanism of hydrogen-rich water (HRW) in alleviating cadmium (Cd) toxicity in Chinese cabbage (Brassica campestris spp. chinensis L.). Our results showed that the addition of 50% saturation HRW significantly alleviated the Cd toxic symptoms, including the improvement of both root elongation and seedling growth inhibition. These responses were consistent with a significant decrease of Cd accumulation in roots and shoots, which was further confirmed by the histochemical staining. Molecular evidence illustrated that Cd-induced up-regulations of IRT1 and Nramp1 genes, responsible for Cd absorption, were blocked by HRW. By contrast, Cd-induced up-regulation of the HMA3 gene, which regulates Cd sequestration into the root vacuoles, was substantially strengthened by HRW. Furthermore, compared with those in Cd stress alone, the expressions of HMA2 and HMA4, which function in the transportation of Cd to xylem, were repressed by co-treatment with HRW. HRW enhanced the activities of antioxidant enzymes, including superoxide dismutase, guaiacol peroxidase, catalase and ascorbate peroxidase. These results were further confirmed by the alleviation of oxidative damage, as indicated by the decrease of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Taken together, these results suggest that the improvement of Cd tolerance by HRW was associated with reduced Cd uptake and increased antioxidant defense capacities. Therefore, the application of HRW may be a promising strategy to improve Cd tolerance of Chinese cabbage.
Keywords: Cadmium tolerance; Cadmium uptake; Chinese cabbage; Hydrogen-rich water; Oxidative stress.