Transition metals such as copper are essential for many physiological processes yet can be toxic at elevated levels. Other metals (e.g. lead) are nonessential and potentially highly toxic. Plants – like all other organisms – possess homeostatic mechanisms to maintain the correct concentrations of essential metal ions in different cellular compartments and to minimize the damage from exposure to nonessential metal ions. A regulated network of metal transport, chelation, trafficking and sequestration activities functions to provide the uptake, distribution and detoxification of metal ions. Some of the components of this network have now been identified: a number of uptake transporters have been cloned as well as candidate transporters for the vacuolar sequestration of metals. Chelators and chaperones are known, and evidence for intracellular metal trafficking is emerging. This recent progress in the molecular understanding of plant metal homeostasis and tolerance is reviewed.
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