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Nat Biotechnol. 2001 Jun;19(6):568-72.

A sensitive transgenic plant system to detect toxic inorganic compounds in the environment.

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Friedrich Miescher Institut, P.O. Box 2543, CH-4002, Basel, Switzerland.


We describe a transgenic plant-based assay to study the genetic effects of heavy metals. Arabidopsis thaliana plants carrying a beta-glucuronidase (GUS) marker gene either with a point mutation or as a recombination substrate were used to analyze the frequency of somatic point mutations and homologous recombination in whole plants. Transgenic test plants sown on media contaminated by the salts of the heavy metals Cd2+, Pb2+, Ni2+, Zn2+, Cu2+, and As2O3 exhibited a pronounced uptake-dependent increase in the frequencies of both somatic intrachromosomal recombination and point mutation. The test was applied to monitor the genotoxicity of soils sampled in sites contaminated with several heavy metals. Our results indicate that this is a highly sensitive system for monitoring metal contamination in soils and water.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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