Toxicity and tolerance of aluminum in plants: tailoring plants to suit to acid soils

Biometals. 2016 Apr;29(2):187-210. doi: 10.1007/s10534-016-9910-z. Epub 2016 Jan 21.


Aluminum (Al) stress is one of the serious limiting factors in plant productivity in acidic soils, which constitute about 50 % of the world's potentially arable lands and causes anywhere between 25 and 80 % of yield losses depending upon the species. The mechanism of Al toxicity and tolerance has been examined in plants, which is vital for crop improvement and enhanced food production in the future. Two mechanisms that facilitate Al tolerance in plants are Al exclusion from the roots and the ability to tolerate Al in the symplast or both. Although efforts have been made to unravel Al-resistant factors, many aspects remain unclear. Certain gene families such as MATE, ALMT, ASR, and ABC transporters have been implicated in some plants for resistance to Al which would enhance the opportunities for creating crop plants suitable to grow in acidic soils. Though QTLs have been identified related to Al-tolerance, no crop plant that is tolerant to Al has been evolved so far using breeding or molecular approaches. The remarkable changes that plants experience at the physiological, biochemical and molecular level under Al stress, the vast array of genes involved in Al toxicity-tolerance, the underlying signaling events and the holistic image of the molecular regulation, and the possibility of creating transgenics for Al tolerance are discussed in this review.

Keywords: Aluminum; Citrate; Malate; Metal chelators; Organic acids; Rhizotoxicity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Aluminum / pharmacology*
  • Crops, Agricultural / drug effects
  • Crops, Agricultural / growth & development*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Genes, Plant
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Interaction Maps
  • Soil / chemistry*
  • Soil Pollutants / pharmacology*


  • Plant Proteins
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Aluminum