, Volume 274, Issue 1-2, pp 175-195

The Physiology, Genetics and Molecular Biology of Plant Aluminum Resistance and Toxicity

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Aluminum (Al) toxicity is the primary factor limiting crop production on acidic soils (pH values of 5 or below), and because 50% of the world’s potentially arable lands are acidic, Al toxicity is a very important limitation to worldwide crop production. This review examines our current understanding of mechanisms of Al toxicity, as well as the physiological, genetic and molecular basis for Al resistance. Al resistance can be achieved by mechanisms that facilitate Al exclusion from the root apex (Al exclusion) and/or by mechanisms that confer the ability of plants to tolerate Al in the plant symplasm (Al tolerance). Compelling evidence has been presented in the literature for a resistance mechanism based on exclusion of Al due to Al-activated carboxylate release from the growing root tip. More recently, researchers have provided support for an additional Al-resistance mechanism involving internal detoxification of Al with carboxylate ligands (deprotonated organic acids) and the sequestration of the Al-carboxylate complexes in the vacuole. This is a field that is entering a phase of new discovery, as researchers are on the verge of identifying some of the genes that contribute to Al resistance in plants. The identification and characterization of Al resistance genes will not only greatly advance our understanding of Al-resistance mechanisms, but more importantly, will be the source of new molecular resources that researchers will use to develop improved crops better suited for cultivation on acid soils.