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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2009 Apr;20(2):237-41. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2009.02.014. Epub 2009 Apr 1.

Phytoremediation of small organic contaminants using transgenic plants.

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  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


The efficacy of transgenic plants in the phytoremediation of small organic contaminants has been investigated. Two principal strategies have been pursued (1) the manipulation of phase I metabolic activity to enhance in planta degradation rates, or to impart novel metabolic activity, and (2) the enhanced secretion of reactive enzymes from roots leading to accelerated ex planta degradation of organic contaminants. A pair of dehalogenase genes from Xanthobacter autotrophicus was expressed in tobacco resulting in the dehalogenation of 1,2-dichloroethane, which was otherwise recalcitrant. A laccase gene from cotton was overexpressed in Arabidopsis thaliana resulting in increased secretory laccase activity and the enhanced resistance to trichlorophenol in soils. Although the results to date are promising, much of the work has been limited to laboratory settings; field demonstrations are needed.

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