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Antioxidants and free radicals basics

  1. The Rhizophagy Cycle: Nutrient Transfer and Oxidation

    • In the rhizophagy cycle, symbiotic microbes (both bacteria and fungi) transfer nutrients to host plant roots.
    • These microbes alternate between two phases:
      • Root Intracellular Endophytic Phase: They reside within root cells.
      • Free-Living Soil Phase: They exist independently in the soil.
    • Here’s where oxidation and antioxidants come into play.
  2. Microbial Dance in the Roots: A Closer Look:

    • Initially, symbiotic microbes grow on the rhizoplane (root surface) near the root meristem.
    • They then enter root tip meristem cells, positioning themselves within the periplasmic spaces between the cell wall and plasma membrane.
    • Inside root cells, microbes transform into wall-less protoplast forms.
    • As root cells mature, microbes continue encountering reactive oxygen (superoxide) produced by NADPH oxidases (NOX) on the root cell plasma membranes.
    • Reactive oxygen degrades some intracellular microbes, effectively extracting nutrients from them.
  3. Antioxidants in Action:

    • Plants produce antioxidants as a defense mechanism against oxidative stress caused by ROS (reactive oxygen species).
    • During the rhizophagy cycle, plants utilize antioxidants to protect themselves and manage ROS:
      • Nitric Oxide (NO): Microbes secrete NO, which combines with superoxide to form nitrate (NO₃).
      • Nitrate can be absorbed by root cells.
      • The microbes continuously secrete nitrogenous antioxidants to prevent degradation by superoxide.
  4. Adaptation and Survival:

    • Antioxidants help plants adapt to environmental stressors:
      • UV radiation
      • Pathogen attacks
      • Drought
      • Pollution
    • By managing ROS, plants optimize nutrient acquisition while safeguarding their cellular health.
  5. Human Health Connection:

    • When we consume plant-based foods rich in antioxidants, we benefit too.
    • Antioxidants protect our cells from oxidative damage, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
    • A diet with a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains provides essential antioxidants.

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