Enhancing phytoremediation through the use of transgenics and endophytes


Author for correspondence:
Sharon Lafferty Doty
Tel:+1 206 616 6255
Fax: +1 206 5433254
Email: sldoty@u.washington.edu



I.Remediation of environmental contaminants via engineering and biological methods319
II.Phytoremediation with transgenics322
III.Endophyte-assisted phytoremediation326
IV.Concluding remarks329


In the last decade, there has been an increase in research on improving the ability of plants to remove environmental pollution. Genes from microbes, plants, and animals are being used successfully to enhance the ability of plants to tolerate, remove, and degrade pollutants. Through expression of specific bacterial genes in transgenic plants, the phytotoxic effects of nitroaromatic pollutants were overcome, resulting in increased removal of these chemicals. Overexpression of mammalian genes encoding cytochrome P450s led to increased metabolism and removal of a variety of organic pollutants and herbicides. Genes involved in the uptake or detoxification of metal pollutants were used to enhance phytoremediation of this important class of pollutants. Transgenic plants containing specific bacterial genes converted mercury and selenium to less toxic forms. In addition to these transgenic approaches, the use of microbes that live within plants, termed endophytes, also led to improved tolerance to normally phytotoxic chemicals and increased removal of the pollutants. Bacteria that degraded a herbicide imparted resistance to the herbicide when inoculated into plants. In another study, plants harboring bacteria capable of degrading toluene were more tolerant to normally phytotoxic concentrations of the chemical, and transpired less of it into the atmosphere. This review examines the recent advances in enhancing phytoremediation through transgenic plant research and through the use of symbiotic endophytic microorganisms within plant tissues.