Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Using plants against soils contaminated with arsenic

16.11.2010
Two essential genes that control the accumulation and detoxification of arsenic in plant cells have been identified. This discovery is the fruit of an international collaboration involving laboratories in Switzerland, South Korea and the United States, with the participation of members of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Plant Survival.

The results presented are a promising basis for reducing the accumulation of arsenic in crops from regions in Asia that are polluted by this toxic metalloid, as well as for the cleanup of soils contaminated by heavy metals. The findings are published this week in the prestigious journal PNAS.

The sinking of tubewells in Southeast Asia as well as mining in regions such as China, Thailand, and the United States, are the cause that arsenic concentrations in water often exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) limit of 10 μg/L, the value above which health problems start to occur. Tens of millions of people are exposed to this risk by drinking contaminated water or by ingesting cereal crops cultivated in polluted soils.

A long lasting exposure to this highly toxic metalloid could affect the gastrointestinal transit, the kidneys, the liver, the lungs, the skin and increases the risk of cancer. In Bangladesh, it is estimated that 25 million people drink water that contains more than 50 μg/L of arsenic and that two million of them risk of dying from cancer caused by this toxic substance.

Plants offer a way for toxic metals to enter the food chain. We know, for example, that arsenic is stored within rice grains, which, in regions polluted with this toxic metalloid, constitutes a danger for the population whose diet depends to a great extent on this cereal.

Arsenic or cadmium in soils is transported to plant cells and stored in compartments called vacuoles. Within the cell, the translocation of arsenic and its storage in vacuoles is ensured by a category of peptides – the phytochelatins – that bind to the toxic metalloid, and are transported into the vacuole for detoxification, similar to hooking up a trailer to a truck. In terms of the process, it is the “truck and trailer” complex that is stored in the vacuole.

“By identifying the genes responsible for the vacuolar phytochelatin transport and storage, we have found the missing link that the scientific community searched for the past 25 years”, explains Enrico Martinoia, a professor in plant physiology at the University of Zurich. The experiments carried out on the model plant Arabidopsis can easily be adapted to other plants such as rice.

Enrico Martinoia is one of the directors of this research that includes the Korean professor Youngsook Lee from the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) and Julian Schroeder, biology professor at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Along with Stefan Hörtensteiner, also from the University of Zurich, and Doris Rentsch from the University of Bern, he is one of the three members of the NCCR Plant Survival who participated in this study which was published in PNAS.

Controlling these genes will make it possible to develop plants capable of preventing the transfer of toxic metals and metalloids from the roots to the leaves and grains thereby limiting the entry of arsenic into the food chain. “By focusing on these genes, states Youngsook Lee, we could avoid the accumulation of these heavy metals in edible portions of the plant such as grains or fruits.”

At the same time, researchers have discovered a way to produce plants capable of accumulating a greater amount of toxic metals which consequently can be used to clean up contaminated soils. These plants would then be burned in blast furnaces in order to eliminate the toxic elements.

Literature:
Won-Yong Song, Jiyoung Park, David G. Mendoza-Cózatl, Marianne Suter-Grotemeyer, Donghwan Shim, Stefan Hörtensteiner, Markus Geisler, Barbara Weder, Philip A. Rea, Doris Rentsch, Julian I. Schroeder, Youngsook Lee, Enrico Martinoia: Arsenic tolerance in Arabidopsis is mediated by two ABCC-type phytochelatin transporters, in: PNAS, Doi: 10.1073/pnas.1013964107
Contact:
Prof. Enrico Martinoia
University of Zurich
Tel. : +41 44 634 8222
enrico.martinoia@botinst.uzh.ch

Beat Müller | idw
Further information:
http://www.uzh.ch/

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

Metallic nanoparticles will help to determine the percentage of volatile compounds

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Shallow soils promote savannas in South America

20.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>