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Heavy metal pollution in the soil is toxic to animals, humans and aquatic life. Their tendency to accumulate in the food chain has
led to stricter environmental regulations in the past decades. Little is known about the interaction between contaminated soil,
plants and the rhizosphere. Root endophytic fungi such as Arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) fungi and Piriformospora indica belong to the
rhizosphere and are associated with a huge variety of plant species. Both symbioses improve plant productivity by enhancing nutrient
supply and conferring resistance and tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses. The effect of the AM fungus Rhizophagus irregularis and
the beneficial fungus P. indica on sweet basil was tested in a pot experiment with soil contaminated with lead (Pb) and copper (Cu)
under defined greenhouse conditions. The AM fungus R. irregularis mediates an increase in shoot and root dry weight of sweet basil
plants when the soil is contaminated with Pb or Cu, as well. Mycorrhization of sweet basil roots decreases in contaminated soil with
Cu, but not with Pb. The Pb content in the shoot is decreasing with AMF, but not the Cu content. In contrast, sweet basil inoculated
with P. indica shows a decrease in shoot Cu content. Furthermore, AMF have a dramatic effect on the content of the essential oils
linalool and eucalyptol even on contaminated soils. Therefore, we conclude that beneficial fungi can be used to improve the quantity
and quality of sweet basil also under conditions, which are stressful for the plant, such as heavy metal contaminated soils.
Mayada Sabra has completed her PhD from Alexandria University, Egypt in collaboration with Leibniz-Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops (IGZ), Erfurt, Germany. She received the Doctorate degree from Faculty of Agriculture, Alexandria University. Her publications investigate that some kind of beneficial microorganisms could reduce pollution from agricultural soil. She has written research papers after years of experience in research, teaching and administration both in the Leibniz-Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops (IGZ), Germany and Alexandria University, Egypt.