Functional characterisation of metal(loid) processes in planta through the integration of synchrotron techniques and plant molecular biology
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- Donner, E., Punshon, T., Guerinot, M.L. et al. Anal Bioanal Chem (2012) 402: 3287. doi:10.1007/s00216-011-5624-9
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Functional characterisation of the genes regulating metal(loid) homeostasis in plants is a major focus for phytoremediation, crop biofortification and food security research. Recent advances in X-ray focussing optics and fluorescence detection have greatly improved the potential to use synchrotron techniques in plant science research. With use of methods such as micro X-ray fluorescence mapping, micro computed tomography and micro X-ray absorption near edge spectroscopy, metal(loids) can be imaged in vivo in hydrated plant tissues at submicron resolution, and laterally resolved metal(loid) speciation can also be determined under physiologically relevant conditions. This article focuses on the benefits of combining molecular biology and synchrotron-based techniques. By using molecular techniques to probe the location of gene expression and protein production in combination with laterally resolved synchrotron techniques, one can effectively and efficiently assign functional information to specific genes. A review of the state of the art in this field is presented, together with examples as to how synchrotron-based methods can be combined with molecular techniques to facilitate functional characterisation of genes in planta. The article concludes with a summary of the technical challenges still remaining for synchrotron-based hard X-ray plant science research, particularly those relating to subcellular level research.