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Enhancement Of Zn Tolerance And Accumulation In Plants Mediated By The Expression Of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Vacuolar Transporter ZRC1

Giovanni DalCorso, Flavio Martini, Elisa Fasani, Anna Manara, Giovanna Visioli, Antonella Furini

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Abstract Main conclusion Transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana and Populus alba plants overexpressing the zinc transporter ScZRC1 in shoots exhibit Zn tolerance. Increased Zn concentrations were observed in shoots of P. alba, a species suitable for phytoremediation. Abstract Genetic engineering of plants for phytoremediation is worth to consider if genes leading to heavy metal accumulation and tolerance are expressed in high biomass producing plants. The Saccharomyces cerevisiae ZRC1 gene encodes a zinc transporter which is primarily involved in the uptake of Zn into the vacuole. The ZRC1 gene was expressed in the model species A. thaliana and P. alba (cv. Villafranca). Both species were transformed with constructs carrying ScZRC1 under the control of either the CaMV35S promoter for constitutive expression or the active promoter region of the tobacco Rubisco small subunit (pRbcS) to limit the expression to the above-ground tissues. In hydroponic cultures, A. thaliana and poplar ScZRC1-expressing plants accumulated more Zn in vegetative tissues and were more tolerant than untransformed plants. No differences were found between plants carrying the CaMV35::ScZRC1 or pRbcS::ScZRC1 constructs. The higher Zn accumulation in transgenic plants was accompanied by an increased superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity, indicating the activation of defense mechanisms to prevent cellular damage. In the presence of cadmium in addition to Zn, plants did not show symptoms of metal toxicity, neither in hydroponic cultures nor in soil. Zn accumulation increased in shoots, while no differences were observed for Cd accumulation, in comparison to control plants. These data suggest that ectopic expression of ScZRC1 can increase the potential of poplar for the remediation of Zn-polluted soils, although further tests are required to assay its application in remediating multimetal polluted soils.