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Plant Cell Environ. 2008 Jan;31(1):123-43. Epub 2007 Nov 12.

Interaction of heavy metals with the sulphur metabolism in angiosperms from an ecological point of view.

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  • 1Institute of Ecological Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan (10851081) HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The metabolism of sulphur in angiosperms is reviewed under the aspect of exposure to ecologically relevant concentrations of sulphur, heavy metals and metalloids. Because of the inconsistent use of the term 'metal tolerance', in this review the degree of tolerance to arsenic and heavy metals is divided into three categories: hypotolerance, basal tolerance and hypertolerance. The composition of nutrient solutions applied to physiological experiments let see that the well-known interactions of calcium, sulphate and zinc supply with uptake of heavy metals, especially cadmium are insufficiently considered. Expression of genes involved in reductive sulphate assimilation pathway and enzyme activities are stimulated by cadmium and partially by copper, but nearly not by other heavy metals. The synthesis of the sulphur-rich compounds glucosinolates, metallothioneins and phytochelatins is affected in a metal-specific way. Phytochelatin levels are low in all metal(loid)-hypertolerant plant species growing in the natural environment on metal(loid)-enriched soils. If laboratory experiments mimic the natural environments, especially high Zn/Cd ratios and good sulphur supply, and chemical analyses are extended to more mineral elements than the single metal(loid) under investigation, a better understanding of the impact of metal(loid)s on the sulphur metabolism can be achieved.

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