Xenobiotic detoxification, secondary metabolism and redox processes in higher plant


Dr. Jean-Paul Schwitzguébel, Dr. Valérie Page

Funding agency

SER (COST Action 859)

Project period

April 2006 – February 2009


Dr Daniele Werck-Reichhart, Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France.


Plant metabolism is diverse and the appropriate plant species can be used to remove recalcitrant compounds, like sulphonated anthraquinones present in effluents from dye and textile industries. To better exploit the potential of plants for the phytotreatment of xenobiotic pollutants and the remediation of contaminated environment, their biochemical and physiological properties must be studied. The aim of this project is to address key generic questions on biochemical mechanisms involved in the detoxification of sulphonated aromatic compounds, as well as on their cross talks with secondary metabolism and redox processes, in different plant species, producing and non-producing natural anthraquinones. The specific scientific objectives of the research are thus:

  1. to elucidate if the detoxification mechanisms of sulphonated anthraquinones are unique and specific to anthraquinone producing plants;
  2. to characterize the biochemical response of different plant parts to penetrated sulphonated xenobiotics;
  3. to evaluate the effect of number and position of sulphonate groups on the metabolic fate of these compounds.


The experimentation is carried out with several plant species, producing or non-producing natural derivatives of anthraquinones, thus having different types of metabolism. All these plants should have active enzyme systems involved in xenobiotics oxidation and conjugation, linked to energy metabolism, due to the fact that detoxification is connected to significant energy spending. The activity of enzymes, like cytochrome P450 mono-oxygenases, peroxidases and glycosyl-transferase, as well as enzymes involved in the energy and secondary metabolism, is expected to be dependent on the status of the plant. Results will help determining the maximal possible amount of sulphonated aromatic compounds that can be accumulated and detoxified without injury, critical stress or disruption of plant metabolism; they will provide a sound basis for the future implementation of an efficient phytotreatment to remove sulphonated aromatic compounds from industrial wastewater.