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Sulphonated anthraquinones are precursors of many synthetic dyes and pigments, recalcitrant to biodegradation, and thus contaminating many industrial effluents and rivers. In the development of a phytotreatment to remove sulphonated aromatic compounds, rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum), a plant producing natural anthraquinones, as well as maize (Zea mays) and celery (Apium graveolens), plants not producing anthraquinones, were tested for their ability to metabolise these xenobiotics. Plants were cultivated under hydroponic conditions, with or without sulphonated anthraquinones, and were harvested at different times. Either microsomal or cytosolic fractions were prepared. The monooxygenase activity of cytochromes P450 towards several sulphonated anthraquinones was tested using a new method based on the fluorimetric detection of oxygen consumed during cytochromes P450-catalysed reactions. The activity of cytosolic peroxidases was measured by spectrophotometry, using guaiacol as a substrate. Results indicated that the activity of cytochromes P450 and peroxidases significantly increased in rhubarb plants cultivated in the presence of sulphonated anthraquinones. A higher activity of cytochromes P450 was also detected in maize and celery exposed to the pollutants. In these two plants, a peroxidase activity was also detected, but without a clear difference between the control plants and the plants exposed to the organic contaminants. This research demonstrated the existence in rhubarb, maize and celery of biochemical mechanisms involved in the metabolism and detoxification of sulphonated anthraquinones. Taken together, results confirmed that rhubarb might be the most appropriate plant for the phytotreatment of these organic pollutants.