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Plant Physiol. 2002 Oct;130(2):847-56.

An essential role of s-adenosyl-L-methionine:L-methionine s-methyltransferase in selenium volatilization by plants. Methylation of selenomethionine to selenium-methyl-L-selenium- methionine, the precursor of volatile selenium.

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Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, 111 Koshland Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-3102, USA.


Selenium (Se) phytovolatilization, the process by which plants metabolize various inorganic or organic species of Se (e.g. selenate, selenite, and Se-methionine [Met]) into gaseous Se forms (e.g. dimethylselenide), is a potentially important means of removing Se from contaminated environments. Before attempting to genetically enhance the efficiency of Se phytovolatilization, it is essential to elucidate the enzymatic pathway involved and to identify its rate-limiting steps. The present research tested the hypothesis that S-adenosyl-L-Met:L-Met S-methyltransferase (MMT) is the enzyme responsible for the methylation of Se-Met to Se-methyl Se-Met (SeMM). To this end, we identified and characterized an Arabidopsis T-DNA mutant knockout for MMT. The lack of MMT in the Arabidopsis T-DNA mutant plant resulted in an almost complete loss in its capacity for Se volatilization. Using chemical complementation with SeMM, the presumed enzymatic product of MMT, we restored the capacity of the MMT mutant to produce volatile Se. Overexpressing MMT from Arabidopsis in Escherichia coli, which is not known to have MMT activity, produced up to 10 times more volatile Se than the untransformed strain when both were supplied with Se-Met. Thus, our results provide in vivo evidence that MMT is the key enzyme catalyzing the methylation of Se-Met to SeMM.

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