Engineering calcium oxalate crystal formation in Arabidopsis

Plant Cell Physiol. 2012 Jul;53(7):1275-82. doi: 10.1093/pcp/pcs071. Epub 2012 May 10.


Many plants accumulate crystals of calcium oxalate. Just how these crystals form remains unknown. To gain insight into the mechanisms regulating calcium oxalate crystal formation, a crystal engineering approach was initiated utilizing the non-crystal-accumulating plant, Arabidopsis. The success of this approach hinged on the ability to transform Arabidopsis genetically into a calcium oxalate crystal-accumulating plant. To accomplish this transformation, two oxalic acid biosynthetic genes, obcA and obcB, from the oxalate-secreting phytopathogen, Burkholderia glumae were inserted into the Arabidopsis genome. The co-expression of these two bacterial genes in Arabidopsis conferred the ability not only to produce a measurable amount of oxalate but also to form crystals of calcium oxalate. Biochemical and cellular studies of crystal accumulation in Arabidopsis revealed features that are similar to those observed in the cells of crystal-forming plants. Thus, it appears that at least some of the basic components that comprise the calcium oxalate crystal formation machinery are conserved even in non-crystal-accumulating plants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / anatomy & histology
  • Arabidopsis / chemistry
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Burkholderia / genetics
  • Calcium / chemistry
  • Calcium Oxalate / chemistry*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Genetic Engineering / methods
  • Genome, Plant*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Plant Cells / chemistry
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry
  • Plant Leaves / ultrastructure
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / chemistry
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Transformation, Genetic
  • Transgenes


  • Calcium Oxalate
  • Calcium