Many rivers to cross: the journey of zinc from soil to seed

Front Plant Sci. 2014 Feb 12;5:30. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2014.00030. eCollection 2014.


An important goal of micronutrient biofortification is to enhance the amount of bioavailable zinc in the edible seed of cereals and more specifically in the endosperm. The picture is starting to emerge for how zinc is translocated from the soil through the mother plant to the developing seed. On this journey, zinc is transported from symplast to symplast via multiple apoplastic spaces. During each step, zinc is imported into a symplast before it is exported again. Cellular import and export of zinc requires passage through biological membranes, which makes membrane-bound transporters of zinc especially interesting as potential transport bottlenecks. Inside the cell, zinc can be imported into or exported out of organelles by other transporters. The function of several membrane proteins involved in the transport of zinc across the tonoplast, chloroplast or plasma membranes are currently known. These include members of the ZIP (ZRT-IRT-like Protein), and MTP (Metal Tolerance Protein) and heavy metal ATPase (HMA) families. An important player in the transport process is the ligand nicotianamine that binds zinc to increase its solubility in living cells and in this way buffers the intracellular zinc concentration.

Keywords: apoplastic barrier; nicotianamine; plants; seeds; zinc.

Publication types

  • Review