Emerging mechanisms for heavy metal transport in plants

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2000 May 1;1465(1-2):104-26. doi: 10.1016/s0005-2736(00)00133-4.


Heavy metal ions such as Cu(2+), Zn(2+), Mn(2+), Fe(2+), Ni(2+) and Co(2+) are essential micronutrients for plant metabolism but when present in excess, these, and non-essential metals such as Cd(2+), Hg(2+) and Pb(2+), can become extremely toxic. Thus mechanisms must exist to satisfy the requirements of cellular metabolism but also to protect cells from toxic effects. The mechanisms deployed in the acquisition of essential heavy metal micronutrients have not been clearly defined although a number of genes have now been identified which encode potential transporters. This review concentrates on three classes of membrane transporters that have been implicated in the transport of heavy metals in a variety of organisms and could serve such a role in plants: the heavy metal (CPx-type) ATPases, the natural resistance-associated macrophage protein (Nramp) family and members of the cation diffusion facilitator (CDF) family. We aim to give an overview of the main features of these transporters in plants in terms of structure, function and regulation drawing on information from studies in a wide variety of organisms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Arabidopsis
  • Arabidopsis Proteins*
  • Biological Transport
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cation Transport Proteins*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Metalloendopeptidases / genetics
  • Metalloendopeptidases / metabolism
  • Metalloexopeptidases*
  • Metals, Heavy / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Plants / genetics
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Nramp3 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Plant Proteins
  • Metalloexopeptidases
  • Cpxm1 protein, mouse
  • Metalloendopeptidases