Plant physiology

Overexpression of glutathione synthetase in indian mustard enhances cadmium accumulation and tolerance

PMID 9880348


An important pathway by which plants detoxify heavy metals is through sequestration with heavy-metal-binding peptides called phytochelatins or their precursor, glutathione. To identify limiting factors for heavy-metal accumulation and tolerance, and to develop transgenic plants with an increased capacity to accumulate and/or tolerate heavy metals, the Escherichia coli gshII gene encoding glutathione synthetase (GS) was overexpressed in the cytosol of Indian mustard (Brassica juncea). The transgenic GS plants accumulated significantly more Cd than the wild type: shoot Cd concentrations were up to 25% higher and total Cd accumulation per shoot was up to 3-fold higher. Moreover, the GS plants showed enhanced tolerance to Cd at both the seedling and mature-plant stages. Cd accumulation and tolerance were correlated with the gshII expression level. Cd-treated GS plants had higher concentrations of glutathione, phytochelatin, thiol, S, and Ca than wild-type plants. We conclude that in the presence of Cd, the GS enzyme is rate limiting for the biosynthesis of glutathione and phytochelatins, and that overexpression of GS offers a promising strategy for the production of plants with superior heavy-metal phytoremediation capacity.

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