Leaf-targeted phytochelatin synthase in Arabidopsis thaliana

A G Peterson, D J Oliver
Plant Physiology and Biochemistry: PPB 2006, 44 (11-12): 885-92
One of the key steps in developing transgenic plants for the phytoremediation of metal containing soils is to develop plants that accumulate metals in the aerial tissues. With the goal of changing the distribution of phytochelatin (PC)-dependent cadmium accumulation from roots to the leaves, the phytochelatin synthase (PCS) deficient cad1-3 mutant and wild type (Col-0) Arabidopsis plants were transformed with an Arabidopsis phytochelatin synthase (AtPCS1) under the control of a leaf-specific promoter. Three independent transformant lines from each genetic background were chosen for further analysis and designated cad-PCS and WT-PCS. PCS activity in the cadPCS lines was restored in the leaves, but not in the roots. Additionally, when whole plants were treated with cadmium, PCs were found only in the leaves of cad-PCS plants. Although the inserted AtPCS1 gene was leaf-specific, cad-PCS lines showed an overall decrease in cadmium toxicity evidenced by a partial amelioration of the "brown-root" phenotype and root growth was restored to wild type levels when treated with cadmium and arsenate. WT-PCS lines showed an increase in leaf PCS activity but had only wild type PC levels. In addition, cadmium uptake studies indicated that there was no difference in cadmium accumulation among all types tested. So, while we were able to protect the plants against cadmium by expressing PC synthase only in the leaves, we were not able to limit cadmium accumulation to aerial tissues.

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