Biologists Identify Genes that Control Toxic Metal Accumulation in Plants
A series of scientific findings by biologists at the University of California San Diego headed by Julian Shroeder, reported the family of genes that could be key to how yeast and plants accumulate toxic heavy metals and arsenic inside plant cells.
"Heavy metal and arsenic contamination has become a serious environmental problem that can cause cancer, dementia and other health problems in humans," said Schroeder. "By targeting these genes, we may be able to keep heavy metals from accumulating in the edible parts of plants, such as rice grains, and fruits, as well as engineer non-food plants to better accumulate heavy metals in order to remove toxic metals from contaminated sites."
The first finding was the identification of the gene in the genome of fission yeast which could accumulate toxic heavy metals. It was found to be similar to a family of genes in Arabidopsis, as reported in the second paper. The third paper reported the identification of two-related heavy metal phytochelatin transporters which when deleted in Arabidopsis would not allow the accumulation of the toxic arsenic in the vacuoles.
Details of the news article can be seen at http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/11-10toxicmetals.asp
This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)