, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 307-321

Magnesium transport and function in plants: the tip of the iceberg

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Abstract

The maintenance of Mg2+ homeostasis in the plant is essential for viability. This review describes Mg2+ functions and balancing in plants, with special focus on the existing knowledge of the involved transport mechanisms. Mg2+ is essential for the function of many cellular enzymes and for the aggregation of ribosomes. Mg2+ concentrations also modulate ionic currents across the chloroplast and the vacuolar membranes, and might thus regulate ion balance in the cell and stomatal opening. The significance of Mg2+ homeostasis has been particularly established with regard to Mg2+'s role in photosynthesis. Mg2+ is the central atom of the chlorophyll molecule, and fluctuations in its levels in the chloroplast regulate the activity of key photosynthetic enzymes. Relatively little is known of the proteins mediating Mg2+ uptake and transport in plants. The plant vacuole seem to play a key role in Mg2+ homeostasis in plant cells. Physiological and molecular evidence indicate that Mg2+ entry to the vacuole is mediated by Mg2+/H+ exchangers. The Arabidopsis vacuolar Mg2+/H+ exchanger, AtMHX, is highly transcribed at the vascular tissue, apparently most abundantly at the xylem parenchyma. Inclusion of Mg2+ ions into the vacuoles of this tissue may determine their partitioning between the various plant organs. Impacts of Mg2+ imbalance are described with respect for both plant physiology and for its nutritional value to animal and human.