Cross-species microarray transcript profiling reveals high constitutive expression of metal homeostasis genes in shoots of the zinc hyperaccumulator Arabidopsis halleri

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These authors contributed equally.

Summary

Arabidopsis halleri ssp. halleri (accession Langelsheim) is a naturally selected zinc (Zn)- and cadmium-tolerant Zn hyperaccumulator. This plant differs strikingly from its close relative A. thaliana by accumulating Zn specifically in above-ground tissues. A. thaliana GeneChips were used in order to identify, on a transcriptome-wide scale, genes with a potential involvement in cellular metal uptake or detoxification in the shoots of A. halleri. Compared to A. thaliana, transcript abundance of several genes was found and confirmed to be substantially higher in A. halleri after 4 days of exposure to low as well as high Zn concentrations in the hydroponic culture medium. The identified candidate genes encode proteins closely related to the following A. thaliana proteins: AtZIP6, a putative cellular Zn uptake system and member of the zinc-regulated transporter (ZRT)-iron regulated transporter (IRT)-like protein (ZIP)-family of metal transporters, the putative P-type metal ATPase AtHMA3, the cation diffusion facilitator ZAT/AtCDF1, and the nicotianamine synthase AtNAS3. Heterologous expression in mutant strains of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae suggested that AhHMA3, AhCDF1-3, and AhNAS3 can function in cellular Zn detoxification. Our data indicate that, at the transcript level, the Zn tolerance strategy of A. halleri involves high constitutive expression of metal homeostasis genes in the shoots to accommodate higher basal levels of Zn accumulation, and possibly to prepare for sudden increases in Zn influx into shoot cells. Furthermore, profiling of metal homeostasis gene transcripts in shoot and root tissues by real-time RT-PCR indicated that A. halleri and A. thaliana respond differently to changes in plant Zn status.

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