Opportunities and feasibilities for biotechnological improvement of Zn, Cd or Ni tolerance and accumulation in plants

Hassan, Z.; Aarts, M.G.M.


Metals contaminate the soil when present in high concentrations causing soil and ultimately environmental pollution. “Phytoremediation” is the use of plants to remove pollutants from contaminated environments. Plants tightly regulate their internal metal concentrations in a process called “metal homeostasis”. Some species have evolved extreme tolerance and accumulation of Zn, Cd and Ni as a way to adapt to exposure to these metals. Such traits are beneficial for phytoremediation, however, most natural metal hyperaccumulator species are not adapted to agriculture and have low yields. A wealth of knowledge has been generated regarding metal homeostasis in plants, including hyperaccumulators, which can be used in phytoremediation of Zn, Cd and Ni. In this review, we describe the current state of Zn, Cd and Ni physiology in plants and the underlying molecular mechanisms. The ways to efficiently utilize this information in designing high biomass metal accumulator plants are discussed. The potential and application of genetic modification has extended our understanding about the mechanisms in plants dealing with the metal environment and has paved the way to achieve the goal of understanding metal physiology and to apply the knowledge for the containment and clean up of metal contaminated soils