, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 1019-1028

Expression of the pea metallothionein-like gene PsMT A in Escherichia coli and Arabidopsis thaliana and analysis of trace metal ion accumulation: Implications for PsMT A function

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The PsMT A gene from pea (Pisum sativum) shares similarity with metallothionein (MT) genes and related sequences have also been isolated from a number of other higher-plant species. The proteins encoded by these genes have not yet been purified from plants and their functions remain unclear although, by analogy to MT, roles in the metabolism and detoxification of metal ions have been proposed. By contrast, correlation between transcript abundance and Fe availability has led to an alternative proposal that these genes are involved in mechanisms of Fe efficiency.

Phenotypic effects of constitutive PsMT A expression were examined in Escherichia coli and Arabidopsis thaliana. Copper accumulation by E. coli cells expressing recombinant PsMTA protein was approximately 8-fold greater than in control cells. No significant effects on the accumulation of Zn or Cd were detected. In segregating A. thaliana progeny, derived from a transgenic F1 parent containing the PsMT A gene under the control of a CaMV 35S promoter, 75% of individuals accumulated more Cu (several-fold in some plants) than untransformed, control plants. These data suggest that PsMTA protein binds Cu in planta and that uncoupled (constitutive) expression of the PsMT A gene causes enhanced Cu accumulation.

Roots of P. sativum plants grown under conditions of low Fe availability showed elevated activity of root surface Fe(III) reductase and accumulated more Cu than roots of plants grown in an Fe-supplemented solution. Changes in the expression of MT-like genes, coincident with changes in Fe availability, are consistent with a role in Cu homoeostasis.