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Transgenic Res. 2012 Dec;21(6):1265-77. doi: 10.1007/s11248-012-9600-8. Epub 2012 Feb 19.

Members of rice plasma membrane intrinsic proteins subfamily are involved in arsenite permeability and tolerance in plants.

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Department of Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences, University of Massachusetts, 202 French Hall, Amherst, MA 01003, USA.


Rice accumulates high level of arsenic (As) in its edible parts and thus plays an important role in the transfer of As into the food chain. However, the mechanisms of As uptake and its detoxification in rice are not well understood. Recently, members of the Nodulin 26-like intrinsic protein (NIP) subfamily of plant aquaporins were shown to transport arsenite in rice and Arabidopsis. Here we report that members of the rice plasma membrane intrinsic protein (PIP) subfamily are also involved in As tolerance and transport. Based on the homology search with the mammalian AQP9 and yeast Fps1 arsenite transporters, we identified and cloned five rice PIP gene subfamily members. qRT-PCR analysis of PIPs in rice root and shoot tissues revealed a significant down regulation of transcripts encoding OsPIP1;2, OsPIP1;3, OsPIP2;4, OsPIP2;6, and OsPIP2;7 in response to arsenite treatment. Heterologous expression of OsPIP2;4, OsPIP2;6, and OsPIP2;7 in Xenopus laevis oocytes significantly increased the uptake of arsenite. Overexpression of OsPIP2;4, OsPIP2;6, and OsPIP2;7 in Arabidopsis yielded enhanced arsenite tolerance and higher biomass accumulation. Further, these transgenic plants showed no significant accumulation of As in shoot and root tissues in long term uptake assays. Whereas, short duration exposure to arsenite caused both active influx and efflux of As in the roots. The data suggests a bidirectional arsenite permeability of rice PIPs in plants. These rice PIPs genes will be highly useful for engineering important food and biofuel crops for enhanced crop productivity on contaminated soils without increasing the accumulation of toxic As in the biomass or edible tissues.

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