Elevated expression of metal transporter genes in three accessions of the metal hyperaccumulator Thlaspi caerulescens


  • *Present address: Academisch Ziekenhuis Utrecht, Department of Haematology, Heidelberglaan 100, 3508 GA Utrecht.

Correspondence: Dr M.G.M. Aarts. Fax: + 31 317418094; e-mail: m.g.m.aarts@plant.wag-ur.nl


Heavy metal hyperaccumulation in plants is an intriguing and poorly understood phenomenon. Transmembrane metal transporters are assumed to play a key role in this process. We describe the cloning and isolation of three zinc transporter cDNAs from the Zn hyperaccumulator Thlaspi caerulescens. The ZTP1 gene is highly similar to the Arabidopsis ZAT gene. Of the other two, one is most probably an allele of the recently cloned ZNT1 gene from T. caerulescens (Pence et al; Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 97, 4956–4960, 2000). The second, called ZNT2, is a close homologue of ZNT1. All three zinc transporter genes show increased expression in T. caerulescens compared with the non-hyperaccumulator congener T. arvense, suggesting an important role in heavy metal hyperaccumulation. ZNT1 and ZNT2 are predominantly expressed in roots and ZTP1 is mainly expressed in leaves but also in roots. In T. arvense, ZNT1 and ZNT2 are exclusively expressed under conditions of Zn deficiency. Their expression in T. caerulescens is barely Zn-responsive, suggesting that Zn hyperaccumulation might rely on a decreased Zn-induced transcriptional downregulation of these genes. ZTP1 expression was higher in plants from calamine soil than in plants from serpentine or normal soil. The calamine plants were also the most Zn tolerant, suggesting that high ZTP1 expression might contribute to Zn tolerance.