Metal Toxicity and Resistance in Plants and Microorganisms in Terrestrial Ecosystems

  • Ramya Narendrula-Kotha
  • Gabriel Theriault
  • Melanie Mehes-Smith
  • Kersey Kalubi
  • Kabwe NkongoloEmail author
Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series (RECT, volume 249)


Metals are major abiotic stressors of many organisms, but their toxicity in plants is not as studied as in microorganisms and animals. Likewise, research in plant responses to metal contamination is sketchy. Candidate genes associated with metal resistance in plants have been recently discovered and characterized. Some mechanisms of plant adaptation to metal stressors have been now decrypted. New knowledge on microbial reaction to metal contamination and the relationship between bacterial, archaeal, and fungal resistance to metals has broadened our understanding of metal homeostasis in living organisms. Recent reviews on metal toxicity and resistance mechanisms focused only on the role of transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and ionomics. This review is a critical analysis of key findings on physiological and genetic processes in plants and microorganisms in responses to soil metal contaminations.


Genes associated with resistance to metals in plants and microorganisms Mechanisms of metal resistance in bacteria, archaea, fungi, and plants Metal-induced gene expression Metal toxicity to plants and microorganisms Plant responses to metals 





ATP-binding cassette


1-Aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid deaminase




Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi


Ascorbate peroxidase




Adenosine triphosphate






Cation diffusion facilitator


Cation exchange capacity




Copper transporter




Cation-proton antiporter


Ectomycorrhizal fungi






γ-Glutamyl-Cys synthetase


Glutathione reductase


Glutathione synthetase






Hydrogen peroxide




Mercuric chloride


Heavy metal ATPase


Iron-regulated proteins


Iron-regulated transporter








Multidrug resistance-associated proteins




Metal tolerance proteins






Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate


Nicotianamine synthase




Natural resistance-associated macrophage proteins






Hydroxyl radical






Reactive oxygen species




Serine acetyltransferase


Superoxide dismutase


Putative transporter protein


Thioredoxin reductase




Zinc finger protein


ZRT, IRT-like proteins





This research is supported by the Natural Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Conflict of Interest

Authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ramya Narendrula-Kotha
    • 1
  • Gabriel Theriault
    • 1
  • Melanie Mehes-Smith
    • 2
  • Kersey Kalubi
    • 1
  • Kabwe Nkongolo
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Biomolecular Sciences ProgramLaurentian UniversitySudburyCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyLaurentian UniversitySudburyCanada

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