Clean and green—a moss that removes lead from water

Lead-contaminated water is a serious environmental concern that has recently proved to be disastrous when left untreated.
As an alternative to these typical processes, phytoremediation is a method that uses photosynthesizing organisms to clean up soil or water contamination.
"We found that the moss can function as an excellent lead absorbent when in the protonema stage of development," says first author Misao Itouga.
To characterize the metal-absorbing ability of the moss, the team first prepared solutions with varying concentrations of 15 different metals and exposed them to F. hygrometrica protonema.
Analysis showed that within the moss protonema cells, more that 85% of the lead had accumulated in the cell walls, with smaller amounts being found in organelle membranes and inside the chloroplasts where photosynthesis occurs.
Focusing on the cell walls, the team found that they absorbed lead even after being removed from living moss.
Analysis with two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance indicated that polygalacturonic acid in the cell walls was responsible for absorbing the lead.
"We compared F. hygrometrica data with those from land plants and seaweeds", explains Itouga, "and found that the presence of polygalacturonic acid in the cell wall is one of the characteristics that separated this type of moss from other plants."
"and will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, specifically the Life on Land goal.
We are currently exploring opportunities to work with recycling-oriented companies."

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