A wheat gene encoding an aluminum-activated malate transporter


For correspondence (fax +81 86 434 1210; e-mail hmatsumo@rib.okayama-u.ac.jp).

Present address: Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, 975 North Warson Road, St Louis, MO 63132, USA.


The major constraint to plant growth in acid soils is the presence of toxic aluminum (Al) cations, which inhibit root elongation. The enhanced Al tolerance exhibited by some cultivars of wheat is associated with the Al-dependent efflux of malate from root apices. Malate forms a stable complex with Al that is harmless to plants and, therefore, this efflux of malate forms the basis of a hypothesis to explain Al tolerance in wheat. Here, we report on the cloning of a wheat gene, ALMT1 (aluminum-activated malate transporter), that co-segregates with Al tolerance in F2 and F3 populations derived from crosses between near-isogenic wheat lines that differ in Al tolerance. The ALMT1 gene encodes a membrane protein, which is constitutively expressed in the root apices of the Al-tolerant line at greater levels than in the near-isogenic but Al-sensitive line. Heterologous expression of ALMT1 in Xenopus oocytes, rice and cultured tobacco cells conferred an Al-activated malate efflux. Additionally, ALMT1 increased the tolerance of tobacco cells to Al treatment. These findings demonstrate that ALMT1 encodes an Al-activated malate transporter that is capable of conferring Al tolerance to plant cells.