The heavy-metal accumulator Brassica juncea L. is a high-biomass crop able to extract heavy-metal ions from the soil, a substantial part being translocated from root to shoot. Previous work has shown that Cd accumulation is accompanied by massive formation of phytochelatins (PCs). Rapid de novo synthesis of PCs in roots and leaves requires an increased synthesis of the tripeptide glutathione (GSH), which in turn depends on increased sulfur assimilation. Therefore. we have cloned cDNAs for three enzymes involved in sulfur assimilation, i.e. a putative low-affinity sulfate transporter (LAST) and two isoforms each for ATP sulfurylase (ATPS) and APS reductase (APSR). As degradation of glucosinolates might provide an additional sulfur source under stress, we also cloned a myrosinase (MYR). RNA blot analysis of transcript amounts indicated that upon Cd exposure (25 microM) the expression of ATPS and APSR in roots and leaves of 6-week-old Brassica juncea plants was strongly increased, whereas the expression of MYR was unaffected. LAST transcripts were significantly reduced in the root but remained unchanged in the leaves. Concomitant with Cd induction of ATPS and APSR mRNAs, cysteine concentrations in roots and leaves increased by 81% and 25%, respectively, whereas GSH concentrations decreased in roots and leaves by 39% and 48%, respectively. In agreement with our previous report on Cd induction of gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase in B. juncea, the results indicate coordinate changes of expression for several sulfur assimilation enzymes in response to an increased demand for cysteine during PC synthesis.