JOURNAL ARTICLE

Arabidopsis thaliana phytochelatin synthase 2 is constitutively active in vivo and can rescue the growth defect of the PCS1-deficient cad1-3 mutant on Cd-contaminated soil

Tanja Kühnlenz, Holger Schmidt, Shimpei Uraguchi, Stephan Clemens
Journal of Experimental Botany 2014, 65 (15): 4241-53
24821959
Phytochelatins play a key role in the detoxification of metals in plants and many other eukaryotes. Their formation is catalysed by phytochelatin synthases (PCS) in the presence of metal excess. It appears to be common among higher plants to possess two PCS genes, even though in Arabidopsis thaliana only AtPCS1 has been demonstrated to confer metal tolerance. Employing a highly sensitive quantification method based on ultraperformance electrospray ionization quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry, we detected AtPCS2-dependent phytochelatin formation. Overexpression of AtPCS2 resulted in constitutive phytochelatin accumulation, i.e. in the absence of metal excess, both in planta and in a heterologous system. This indicates distinct enzymatic differences between AtPCS1 and AtPCS2. Furthermore, AtPCS2 was able to partially rescue the Cd hypersensitivity of the AtPCS1-deficient cad1-3 mutant in a liquid seedling assay, and, more importantly, when plants were grown on soil spiked with Cd to a level that is close to what can be found in agricultural soils. No rescue was found in vertical-plate assays, the most commonly used method to assess metal tolerance. Constitutive AtPCS2-dependent phytochelatin synthesis suggests a physiological role of AtPCS2 other than metal detoxification. The differences observed between wild-type plants and cad1-3 on Cd soil demonstrated: (i) the essentiality of phytochelatin synthesis for tolerating levels of Cd contamination that can naturally be encountered by plants outside of metal-rich habitats, and (ii) a contribution to Cd accumulation under these conditions.

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