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J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2005;18(4):339-53.

Molecular mechanisms of heavy metal hyperaccumulation and phytoremediation.

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MOE Key Lab of Environmental Remediation and Ecosystem Health, College of Environmental & Resources Science, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310029, China.


A relatively small group of hyperaccumulator plants is capable of sequestering heavy metals in their shoot tissues at high concentrations. In recent years, major scientific progress has been made in understanding the physiological mechanisms of metal uptake and transport in these plants. However, relatively little is known about the molecular bases of hyperaccumulation. In this paper, current progresses on understanding cellular/molecular mechanisms of metal tolerance/hyperaccumulation by plants are reviewed. The major processes involved in hyperaccumulation of trace metals from the soil to the shoots by hyperaccumulators include: (a) bioactivation of metals in the rhizosphere through root-microbe interaction; (b) enhanced uptake by metal transporters in the plasma membranes; (c) detoxification of metals by distributing to the apoplasts like binding to cell walls and chelation of metals in the cytoplasm with various ligands, such as phytochelatins, metallothioneins, metal-binding proteins; (d) sequestration of metals into the vacuole by tonoplast-located transporters. The growing application of molecular-genetic technologies led to the well understanding of mechanisms of heavy metal tolerance/accumulation in plants, and subsequently many transgenic plants with increased resistance and uptake of heavy metals were developed for the purpose of phytoremediation. Once the rate-limiting steps for uptake, translocation, and detoxification of metals in hyperaccumulating plants are identified, more informed construction of transgenic plants would result in improved applicability of the phytoremediation technology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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