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Copper In Plants: Acquisition, Transport And Interactions

Inmaculada Yruela

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Copper is an essential metal for plants. It plays key roles in photosynthetic and respiratory electron transport chains, in ethylene sensing, cell wall metabolism, oxidative stress protection and biogenesis of molybdenum cofactor. Thus, a deficiency in the copper supply can alter essential functions in plant metabolism. However, copper has traditionally been used in agriculture as an antifungal agent, and it is also extensively released into the environment by human activities that often cause environmental pollution. Accordingly, excess copper is present in certain regions and environments, and exposure to such can be potentially toxic to plants, causing phytotoxicity by the formation of reactive oxygen radicals that damage cells, or by the interaction with proteins impairing key cellular processes, inactivating enzymes and disturbing protein structure. Plants have a complex network of metal trafficking pathways in order to appropriately regulate copper homeostasis in response to environmental copper level variations. Such strategies must prevent accumulation of the metal in the freely reactive form (metal detoxification pathways) and ensure proper delivery of this element to target metalloproteins. The mechanisms involved in the acquisition and the distribution of copper have not been clearly defined, although emerging data in last decade, mainly obtained on copper uptake, and both intra- and intercellular distribution, as well as on long-distance transport, are contributing to the understanding of copper homeostasis in plants and the response to copper stress. This review gives an overview of the current understanding of main features concerning copper function, acquisition and trafficking network as well as interactions between copper and other elements.