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Plant Physiol. 1999 Dec;121(4):1169-78.

Cadmium tolerance and accumulation in Indian mustard is enhanced by overexpressing gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase.

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  • 1Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, 111 Koshland Hall, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


To investigate rate-limiting factors for glutathione and phytochelatin (PC) production and the importance of these compounds for heavy metal tolerance, Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) was genetically engineered to overexpress the Escherichia coli gshI gene encoding gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase (gamma-ECS), targeted to the plastids. The gamma-ECS transgenic seedlings showed increased tolerance to Cd and had higher concentrations of PCs, gamma-GluCys, glutathione, and total non-protein thiols compared with wild-type (WT) seedlings. When tested in a hydroponic system, gamma-ECS mature plants accumulated more Cd than WT plants: shoot Cd concentrations were 40% to 90% higher. In spite of their higher tissue Cd concentration, the gamma-ECS plants grew better in the presence of Cd than WT. We conclude that overexpression of gamma-ECS increases biosynthesis of glutathione and PCs, which in turn enhances Cd tolerance and accumulation. Thus, overexpression of gamma-ECS appears to be a promising strategy for the production of plants with superior heavy metal phytoremediation capacity.

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