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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2009 Apr;20(2):213-9. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2009.02.010. Epub 2009 Mar 26.

Genetic engineering to enhance mercury phytoremediation.

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  • 1Department of Natural Sciences, Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Bayamon, PR 00957-6257, USA.


Most phytoremediation studies utilize merA or merB genes to modify plants via the nuclear or chloroplast genome, expressing organomercurial lyase and/or mercuric ion reductase in the cytoplasm, endoplasmic reticulum or within plastids. Several plant species including Arabidopsis, tobacco, poplar, rice, Eastern cottonwood, peanut, salt marsh grass and Chlorella have been transformed with these genes. Transgenic plants grew exceedingly well in soil contaminated with organic (approximately 400 microM PMA) or inorganic mercury (approximately 500 microM HgCl(2)), accumulating Hg in roots surpassing the concentration in soil (approximately 2000 microg/g). However, none of these plants were tested in the field to demonstrate real potential of this approach. Availability of metal transporters, translocators, chelators and the ability to express membrane proteins could further enhance mercury phytoremediation capabilities.

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