Monitoring of Plants and Plant Populations Affected by Anthropogenic Pollution

Institute of Cytology and Genetics, SB RAS, Novosibirsk

Head of the Institute:

Vladimir K.Shumny, Academician of the RAS
10 Lavrentiev Ave., Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia
Tel.: +(383-2) 33-35-26
Fax: +(383-2) 33-12-78, 33-34-66

Principal researchers:

A.V.Jheleznov, Ph.D.
E.B.Budashkina, Ph.D.
S.E.Peltek, Ph.D.

Project objectives

Publication of the monograph on plant population diversity on the territories of Siberia and Ural affected by radioactive and other anthropogenic pollution. In this monograph, the pattern and frequency of the increased mutation load in these plant populations will be determined and compared with those on control territories. Mutation load will be assessed according to the increase in the variation of certain isoenzymatic loci, frequency of chromosome rearrangements in mitosis and meiosis, and increase in the prevalence of plants with decreased pollen fertility.

Background and significance of objectives

Plants are one of the major components of ecosystems. They can reflect the state of the ecosystems affected by anthropogenic pollution. Both plant communities and individual plant populations in the regions under control represent convenient models for studying genetic consequences of various factors.

One of the basic criteria in studying genetic consequences of the effect of ecological catastrophes on natural populations of higher plants is detection of the catastrophe-induced mutations, as heritable gene alterations.

There are a number of parameters allowing the mutation events induced in plant populations as a result of the global environmental changes to be identified as distinctions between wild populations growing in polluted and control regions. The mutational load induced in plant populations by the effect of ecological catastrophes can be quite rapidly and simply assessed through up-to-date cytogenetic and biochemical methods.

It is well known that plant storage proteins are convenient markers for detecting the pattern of induced mutations. This protein family is represented by stable multiple fractions, whose polymorphism in cultivated plants is well studied. In most cases, the mutations in these genes fail to affect the vital plant functions, thus allowing the effect of other adverse environmental factors both at the moment of their effect and within a remote period.

Institute of Cytology and Genetics SB RAS has accumulated a long-standing experience in studying the effect of adverse environmental factors on populations of higher plants within the footprint of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site. The first mitoses of the root cells of the pea, buckwheat, and wheatgrass plants collected in the polluted regions indicate that the frequency of the cells carrying chromosome aberrations is higher than in the same species from control regions. These data indicate an increased mutation level in the plant populations of the polluted regions. The composition of storage proteins in crested wheatgrass seeds was studied. These data demonstrate that the populations from polluted areas are considerably more polymorphic than the control populations. Isoenzymatic analysis of the populations of three Hordeum jubatum species has demonstrated that the populations from the polluted areas display an increased heterozygosity in a number of loci. This is likely to indicate a preferential selection of heterozygotes in the polluted areas. These works have suggested that plant populations, reflecting adequately the state of the ecosystem, are reliable test systems for assessing the effect of radioactive and other anthropogenic pollution on the hereditary structures of organisms.

This experience is useful for integrated investigations of plant communities in Uralian-Siberian region. The above-described data demonstrate that it will pay to continue monitoring the same populations as well as to expand these studies involving previously uncovered regions known to have high levels of radioactivity and other anthropogenic pollution. Among the first to be involved are the regions of emergency releases in Seversk and Krasnoyarsk and the region near the Integrated Plant Mayak in Chelyabinsk region.

The following techniques will be used in the work. First, the polluted and control regions will be selected. Then, the samples of different plant species will be collected for cytological and isoenzymatic analyses and analysis of seed storage proteins. The pollution levels will be determined in the regions selected, and the plant communities (the species and populations monitored and agroecoogical conditions) will be analyzed. Seeds and sod of the plants in these populations will be collected for this analysis.

Conventional cytogenetic analysis (Pausheva, 1970) will be carried out. Late anaphases and early telophases will be analyzed using provisional squashes. Various aberrations, such as bridges, chromosome fragments, and loose chromosomes, will be taken into account.

Separation of proteins in 10% PAAG in the presence of high urea concentrations, developed earlier (Pel’tek et al., 1984), will be used for analyzing storage proteins. Polymorphism of the populations will be compared using c 2 and Student’s tests. Graphical data processing will be performed by Quattro software package.

Isoenzymatic patterns will be determined in starch gels as described in (Meizel & Markert, 1967).

Expected results

In the monograph planned, the parameters characterizing populations of wild cereals growing in the regions of radioactive and other anthropogenic pollution will be determined and the effect of these factors on hereditary variation in plants, as a constituent of the ecological system, will be assessed. All the data will be statistically processed and supplied with illustrative material.

List of publications of participants related to the project