Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Using plants against soils contaminated with arsenic

Date:
November 17, 2010
Source:
University of Zurich
Summary:
Two essential genes that control the accumulation and detoxification of arsenic in plant cells have been identified. 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.

Two essential genes that control the accumulation and detoxification of arsenic in plant cells have been identified. This discovery was made by 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 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.

Related Articles


The findings are published this week in the 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 Hφrtensteiner, 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Zurich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. W.-Y. Song, J. Park, D. G. Mendoza-Cozatl, M. Suter-Grotemeyer, D. Shim, S. Hortensteiner, M. Geisler, B. Weder, P. A. Rea, D. Rentsch, J. I. Schroeder, Y. Lee, E. Martinoia. Arsenic tolerance in Arabidopsis is mediated by two ABCC-type phytochelatin transporters. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1013964107

Cite This Page:

University of Zurich. "Using plants against soils contaminated with arsenic." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101116093825.htm>.
University of Zurich. (2010, November 17). Using plants against soils contaminated with arsenic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101116093825.htm
University of Zurich. "Using plants against soils contaminated with arsenic." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101116093825.htm (accessed December 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Christmas Trees And Bugs Are Seemingly Symbiotic

Christmas Trees And Bugs Are Seemingly Symbiotic

Newsy (Dec. 24, 2014) — The National Christmas Tree Association says bugs in trees are a relatively small problem, but recommends giving your tree a good shake anyway. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ukrainian Coal Miners Work to Stave Off Electricity Shortage

Ukrainian Coal Miners Work to Stave Off Electricity Shortage

AFP (Dec. 24, 2014) — Coal miners in the separatist east of Ukraine work to ensure there won't be electricity shortages during the coldest months of winter, but the country has declared a state of emergency in its electricity market. Duration: 00:59 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Uruguay Chooses 'smart' Farming Methods for Ambitious Goals

Uruguay Chooses 'smart' Farming Methods for Ambitious Goals

AFP (Dec. 24, 2014) — Using GM crops, genetically chosen cows, and technology like satellites and drones, Uruguay - with a population of just 3 million people - is aiming to produce enough food to feed 50 million. Duration: 03:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Now Third Most Populated State

Florida Now Third Most Populated State

Buzz60 (Dec. 24, 2014) — The US Census Bureau is saying that Florida has recently taken over New York for the third most populated state in the union mark. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins