Uptake, translocation and distribution of three veterinary antibiotics in Zea mays L.

Frequently detected residuals of antibiotics in crops has drawn increasing attention from research community and the general public. This study was conducted under the controlled environmental conditions to investigate the uptake, translocation and distribution of three different veterinary antibiotics (VAs) in plants of Zea mays L. (maize, the third largest crop in the world, especially in China) and the associated mechanisms. The distribution color-maps of mixed-VAs showed that the highest RCF (root concentration factors) values of chlortetracycline (CTC) and sulfamethoxazole (SMZ) were found in the 0.5–2.0 mm zone (cell division zone), while the highest RCF value of sulfathiazole (ST) was in the 6.0–8.0 mm zone (elongation zone) of root tips (0.5–10.0 mm) after 120 h of exposure to VAs. The translocation factor (TF) of CTC was greater than 1.0, but the TFs of SMZ and ST were less than 1.0 under addition of single antibiotic. However, the TFs of three VAs were all greater than 1.0 at the end of exposure under addition of mixed-VAs. The dissipation of antibiotics by maize was also demonstrated by harvesting all plant parts in an enclosed system. The possible mechanisms for uptake and translocation of VAs in maize were investigated by adding multiple respiration inhibitors into the culture solution. The RCFs of VAs were suppressed heavily by salicylhydroxamic acid (SHAM) and sodium azide (NaN3), which indicates that the uptake of VAs was an active process. The results of TFs and stem concentration factors (SCFs) of CTC and SMZ in HgCl2 treatments revealed that the translocation of VAs was associated with the aquaporin activity in maize. The findings from this study will have significant implications for the management of crop food contamination by VAs and for the development of phytoremediation technology for antibiotics in the environment.