How plants cope with heavy metals

Bot Stud. 2014 Dec;55(1):35. doi: 10.1186/1999-3110-55-35. Epub 2014 Mar 20.


Heavy metals are naturally occurring in the earth's crust but anthropogenic and industrial activities have led to drastic environmental pollutions in distinct areas. Plants are able to colonize such sites due to several mechanisms of heavy metal tolerance. Understanding of these pathways enables different fruitful approaches like phytoremediation and biofortification.Therefore, this review addresses mechanisms of heavy metal tolerance and toxicity in plants possessing a sophisticated network for maintenance of metal homeostasis. Key elements of this are chelation and sequestration which result either in removal of toxic metal from sensitive sites or conduct essential metal to their specific cellular destination. This implies shared pathways which can result in toxic symptoms especially in an excess of metal. These overlaps go on with signal transduction pathways induced by heavy metals which include common elements of other signal cascades. Nevertheless, there are specific reactions some of them will be discussed with special focus on the cellular level.

Keywords: Chelation; Heavy metals; Sequestration; Signaling; Tolerance; Toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review