Exploring Plant DNA Damage by Natural Toxins Cadaverine and Putrescine

Greg Howard
17th April, 2024

Exploring Plant DNA Damage by Natural Toxins Cadaverine and Putrescine

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In São Paulo, a study found that cadaverine and putrescine harm plant growth
  • These compounds also cause genetic damage in onion cells
  • The research suggests cemeteries could pollute the environment and affect health
Understanding the risks associated with the decomposition of human bodies is crucial, especially as it pertains to the compounds released into the environment. São Paulo State University has conducted a study[1] focusing on two such compounds, cadaverine and putrescine, which are present in a liquid known as necro-leachate that seeps from decomposing bodies. These biogenic amines, previously studied for their cytotoxic effects in food[2], are now under scrutiny for their potential environmental impact. Necro-leachate's release into the soil, particularly in cemeteries, has raised concerns about its ecotoxicological and public health implications. The study investigated the phytotoxic (harmful to plant life) and cytogenotoxic (harmful to genetic material within a cell) potential of cadaverine and putrescine. This was done by observing their effects on the germination and initial growth of Lactuca sativa (lettuce) seedlings, as well as the occurrence of chromosomal aberrations and micronuclei in Allium cepa (onion) cells. Results from the São Paulo State University study showed that cadaverine and putrescine significantly hindered root and hypocotyl (the stem of a germinating seedling) elongation in lettuce, with reductions greater than 90% and 80%, respectively. When cadaverine and putrescine were mixed, they demonstrated an even stronger cytogenotoxic effect by causing aneugenic action (disruption in the number of chromosomes) in the meristematic cells of onions, which are cells responsible for plant growth. These findings are in line with previous research that has highlighted the presence of harmful bacteria and functional profiles associated with human diseases in cemetery soils[3]. The current study supports the notion that cemeteries can be sources of microbial and antibiotic pollution, particularly in areas with shallow water tables where the risk of groundwater contamination is higher. Moreover, the study echoes concerns raised by earlier research on sewage sludge (SS)[4], which demonstrated genotoxic and mutagenic alterations in exposed organisms due to contaminants. The parallel here is the potential of environmental agents, such as those found in necro-leachate, to directly affect genetic material, posing risks to both ecological systems and human health. The São Paulo State University study adds to the body of evidence suggesting that the disposal of human remains and the subsequent release of compounds like cadaverine and putrescine into the environment need to be managed with great care. The phytotoxic and cytogenotoxic effects of these compounds underscore the need for further investigation into their environmental impact, particularly as it relates to cemeteries and their surrounding areas. To address these concerns, it is essential to consider the hydrogeological characteristics of cemetery sites, as well as the implementation of more effective technologies in waste management practices, to mitigate the risks of contamination. This research is a step towards informing global efforts to safeguard ecological systems and public health from the inadvertent consequences of human burial practices.

HealthBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) A study on phytogenotoxicity induced by biogenic amines: cadaverine and putrescine.

Published 15th April, 2024


Related Studies

2) The biogenic amines putrescine and cadaverine show in vitro cytotoxicity at concentrations that can be found in foods.


3) Microbial life beyond the grave: 16S rRNA gene-based metagenomic analysis of bacteria diversity and their functional profiles in cemetery environments.


4) Comparison of the toxicogenetic potential of sewage sludges from different treatment processes focusing agricultural use.


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