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Plant Cell Physiol. 2004 Dec;45(12):1787-97.

Overexpression of phytochelatin synthase in Arabidopsis leads to enhanced arsenic tolerance and cadmium hypersensitivity.

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Department of Genetics, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-7223, USA.

Erratum in

  • Plant Cell Physiol. 2005 Feb;46(2):387.


Phytochelatin synthase (PCS) catalyzes the final step in the biosynthesis of phytochelatins, which are a family of cysteine-rich thiol-reactive peptides believed to play important roles in processing many thiol-reactive toxicants. A modified Arabidopsis thaliana PCS sequence (AtPCS1) was active in Escherichia coli. When AtPCS1 was overexpressed in Arabidopsis from a strong constitutive Arabidopsis actin regulatory sequence (A2), the A2::AtPCS1 plants were highly resistant to arsenic, accumulating 20-100 times more biomass on 250 and 300 microM arsenate than wild type (WT); however, they were hypersensitive to Cd(II). After exposure to cadmium and arsenic, the overall accumulation of thiol-peptides increased to 10-fold higher levels in the A2::AtPCS1 plants compared with WT, as determined by fluorescent HPLC. Whereas cadmium induced greater increases in traditional PCs (PC2, PC3, PC4), arsenic exposure resulted in the expression of many unknown thiol products. Unexpectedly, after arsenate or cadmium exposure, levels of the dipeptide substrate for PC synthesis, gamma-glutamyl cysteine (gamma-EC), were also dramatically increased. Despite these high thiol-peptide concentrations, there were no significant increases in concentrations of arsenic and cadmium in above-ground tissues in the AtPCS1 plants relative to WT plants. The potential for AtPCS1 overexpression to be useful in strategies for phytoremediating arsenic and to compound the negative effects of cadmium are discussed.

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