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Facoltà di Scienze Agrarie e Alimentari Università degli Studi di Milano
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Environmentallaboratory - Environmental biochemistry and ecotoxicology
Code: G570SC
Teacher:  Gian Attilio Sacchi
CFU subdivision: Lectures: 3
Practices in laboratory:  3
Basic aims:  Lessons:
a) to define the molecular and physiological aspects of plant adaptation to abiotic environmental stresses.
b) to furnish elements for understanding the processes causing the presence and the fate of inorganic and organics pollutants in the environment, as well as the processes involved in their accumulation into the plants and their toxic effects on biocenosis
c) to furnish elements for using plants as biondicator of the presence of pollutants in the environment and for developing the remediation (phytoremedation) of contaminated soils
Experimental activities:
-to furnish basic skills concerning the major instrumental analysis techniques adopted for studying soil and plant content in inorganic and organic pollutants (UV-Vis spectrometry, GC-MS, LC-MS, ICP-MS; C/H/N/S analyser) and the physiological status of the plants (IR thermography, leaf fluorescence, chlorophyll content, leaf photosynthesis activity)-
-to acquire competences useful to elaborate field sampling plans for monitoring the presence of pollutants in soil, water and plant material
-to develop adequate statistical analysis for elaborating large data sets from environmental investigations.
Acquired skills:  Knowledge and skills in the field of stress plant physiology and instrumental analytical chemistry useful to develop low-input approaches for the monitoring and remediation of polluted sites.
Course contents:  The course consits of lessons (24 hs) and laboratory activities (48 hs).
The activities are developed in close collaboration with the “Environmental Chemistry” and “Environmental Microbilogy) modules.
Every year one or more study cases about pollutes sites due to natural or anthropic causes are proposed.
The site under investigation is preliminary examined in collaboration with public (ASL, ARPA, Environmental Agencies, etc.) and eventually private company that for different reasons acts on the site. Then samples of soil, water and plant material will be collected and undergone to chemical, biochemical and microbial analyses in order to verify and/or integrate data concerning their contents in inorganic and/or organic pollutants.
The lessons deal with:
-Plant stress physiology with particular regards to the chemical stress
-The use of plant for monitoring and remediating polluted soils
-Use of plant as biondicator of the presence of pollutants in the environment
-Instrumental techniques forevaluating the levels of environmental pollutants in the plants
-Instrumental techniques for the evaluation of the physiological status of plants exposed to environmental abiotic stresses.
Program:  LESSONS
-Causes and effects of the major kind of soil pollution
-Heavy metals (HMs) soil pollution: effects on the soil-plant system
-Root uptake and root-to-shoot translocation of HMs
-The HMs in the food chain
-The toxic effects of HMs on plant metabolism and physiology
-Mechanisms of plant tolerance to excess of HMs
-HMs hyper-accumulating plants
-Plant hyper-accumulating Zn, Cd or As: some examples
-Food safety: how reducing the risks of the presence of sub-toxic levels of HMs and/or metalloids in the edible plants organs
-Remediation of soil polluted by HMs and/or metalloids: the phytoremedition techniques (vantages and limits)
-Uptake, translocation and metabolism of organic xenobiotics in the plants
-Risks for the food chain due to the accumulation in the edible plant organs of residues produced by the degradation of organic xenobiotics pollutants
-Roles played by the rhizosphere and endophytic microbiomes in the interactions between plants and pollutants
-Plant bio-indicator and biosensor for monitoring soil pollution
-GM pants for environmental monitoring and remediation.
-European Commission: legislation on heavy metals and organic pollutants in soil, feed and food
-Open field sampling techniques for studying water and soil pollution status and the presence of contamints into the plant
-Georeferentiation, collection, cataloguing and conservation of soil, water and plant samples
Instrumental techniques for the evaluation of the level of HMs and/or metalloids (including eventual speciation) in soils, waters and pant biomass: ICP-MS and HPLC-ICP-MS techniques (experiences of sample preparation and analysis); other methods: atomic absorption spectrometry, laser ablation ICP-MS, micro x-ray fluorescence, synchrotron microbeam techniques. Vantages and advantages of the different techniques
-Experimental evaluation of the Kow of organic xenobiotics
-Extraction and analysis of organic xenobiotics in polluted soils and waters and in contaminated plants by HPLC, GC-MS and LC-MS techniques
-Lab level evaluation of the efficiency of plant in the remediation of soil polluted with inorganic and/or organic contaminants
-Evolution of the physiological status of plants under chemical stresses: leaf fluorescence and gaseous exchanges
-Statistical elaboration and presentation of experimental data
Prerequisites:  Nothing
Preparatory instructions:  Nothing
Learning materials:  Buchanan et al. “Biochimica e Biologia Molecolare delle Piante”
Ed. Zanichelli

Baird C., Cann M. "Environmental Chemistry" International

Taiz L e Zeigher E. “Plant Physiology" Sinauer Associates Inc.,

Research article and reviews fournished by the teacher

Specialised web sites
Other info:  Oral examination including presentation of the laboratory
Program of Environmentallaboratory - Environmental biochemistry and ecotoxicology (pdf version)
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