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Plant Physiol. 2004 Nov;136(3):3824-37. Epub 2004 Oct 15.

Cesium toxicity in Arabidopsis.

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  • 1Warwick HRI, Warwick CV35 9EF, United Kingdom.


Cesium (Cs) is chemically similar to potassium (K). However, although K is an essential element, Cs is toxic to plants. Two contrasting hypotheses to explain Cs toxicity have been proposed: (1) extracellular Cs+ prevents K+ uptake and, thereby, induces K starvation; and (2) intracellular Cs+ interacts with vital K(+)-binding sites in proteins, either competitively or noncompetitively, impairing their activities. We tested these hypotheses with Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). Increasing the Cs concentration in the agar ([Cs](agar)) on which Arabidopsis were grown reduced shoot growth. Increasing the K concentration in the agar ([K](agar)) increased the [Cs](agar) at which Cs toxicity was observed. However, although increasing [Cs](agar) reduced shoot K concentration ([K](shoot)), the decrease in shoot growth appeared unrelated to [K](shoot) per se. Furthermore, the changes in gene expression in Cs-intoxicated plants differed from those of K-starved plants, suggesting that Cs intoxication was not perceived genetically solely as K starvation. In addition to reducing [K](shoot), increasing [Cs](agar) also increased shoot Cs concentration ([Cs](shoot)), but shoot growth appeared unrelated to [Cs](shoot) per se. The relationship between shoot growth and [Cs](shoot)/[K](shoot) suggested that, at a nontoxic [Cs](shoot), growth was determined by [K](shoot) but that the growth of Cs-intoxicated plants was related to the [Cs](shoot)/[K](shoot) quotient. This is consistent with Cs intoxication resulting from competition between K+ and Cs+ for K(+)-binding sites on essential proteins.

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