Biotech Updates

Novel Arsenic Transporter in Plants

June 13, 2008

Arsenic is a highly toxic and potent carcinogen. It is widespread in the Earth’s crust and is usually taken up and accumulated by crops. Argentina, Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Mexico and Chile have reported arsenic concentrations higher than the permissible levels and have documented negative effects on human health.

Scientists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and Gothenburg University in Sweden have identified proteins that allow the entry of arsenite, one of the most common forms of arsenic in the environment, into plant cells. The nodulin26-like intrinsic protein (NIPs) family of transporters was found to serve as the “shuttle bus” of arsenite across the cell membrane. NIPs are related to the aquaglyceroporins found in microbes and mammalian cells. The researchers also observed that the NIPs don't just transport arsenite in one direction, but they also play a role in clearing the cells of the toxic compound. The discovery might be important for the development of low-arsenic crops for food production or hyperaccumulating varieties for phytoremediation.

Read the paper published by BMC Biology at