Tissue partitioning of cadmium in transgenic tobacco seedlings and field grown plants expressing the mouse metallothionein I gene

Transgenic Res. 1992 Nov;1(6):261-7. doi: 10.1007/BF02525167.


Since agricultural crops contribute > 70% of human cadmium (Cd) intake, modification of crops to reduce accumulation of this pollutant metal during plant growth is desirable. Here we describe Cd accumulation characteristics of seedlings and field grown tobacco plants expressing the Cd-chelating protein, mouse metallothionein I. The objective of the transformation is to entrap Cd in roots as Cd-metallothionein and thereby reduce its accumulation in the shoot. Transformed and control seedlings were exposed for 15 days in liquid culture at a field soil-solution-like Cd concentration of 0.02 microM. Transformed seedlings of Nicotiana tabacum cultivar KY 14 contained about 24% lower Cd concentration in shoots and about 5% higher Cd concentration in roots than control seedlings. Dry weights of transformed and control tissues did not differ significantly. In the field in 1990, mature transformed N. tabacum cv. KY 14 plants exposed only to endogenous soil Cd contained about 14% lower leaf lamina Cd concentration than did controls. Differences were significant at the p < or = 0.1 level in 13 of 16 leaf positions. Leaf dry weight did not differ significantly but transformed field plants had 12% fewer leaves and were 9% shorter than the controls. Copper (Cu) concentration was significantly higher (ca10%) in the bottom nine leaf positions of transformed plants suggesting that reduced leaf number and plant height may be due to Cu deficiency or toxicity. Alternatively, somaclonal variation or gene position effects may be involved. No differences were found in zinc levels. With N. tabacum cv. Petit Havana, transformed seedlings contained no less Cd in shoots but 48% higher Cd concentration in roots.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadmium / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Metallothionein / genetics*
  • Metallothionein / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism*
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Tobacco / genetics
  • Tobacco / metabolism*


  • Cadmium
  • Metallothionein