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Trends Biotechnol. 2008 May;26(5):225-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2008.02.001. Epub 2008 Mar 18.

Transgenic plants for phytoremediation: helping nature to clean up environmental pollution.

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA.


Phytoremediation is the use of plants to clean up environmental pollution. However, detoxification of organic pollutants by plants is often slow, leading to the accumulation of toxic compounds that could be later released into the environment. A recent publication by Doty and colleagues describes the development of transgenic poplars (Populus) overexpressing a mammalian cytochrome P450, a family of enzymes commonly involved in the metabolism of toxic compounds. The engineered plants showed enhanced performance with regards to the metabolism of trichloroethylene and the removal of a range of other toxic volatile organic pollutants, including vinyl chloride, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform and benzene. This work suggests that transgenic plants might be able to contribute to the wider and safer application of phytoremediation.

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