Plant transporters involved in combating boron toxicity: beyond 3D structures

Biochem Soc Trans. 2020 Aug 28;48(4):1683-1696. doi: 10.1042/BST20200164.


Membrane transporters control the movement and distribution of solutes, including the disposal or compartmentation of toxic substances that accumulate in plants under adverse environmental conditions. In this minireview, in the light of the approaching 100th anniversary of unveiling the significance of boron to plants (K. Warington, 1923; Ann. Bot.37, 629) we discuss the current state of the knowledge on boron transport systems that plants utilise to combat boron toxicity. These transport proteins include: (i) nodulin-26-like intrinsic protein-types of aquaporins, and (ii) anionic efflux (borate) solute carriers. We describe the recent progress made on the structure-function relationships of these transport proteins and point out that this progress is integral to quantitative considerations of the transporter's roles in tissue boron homeostasis. Newly acquired knowledge at the molecular level has informed on the transport mechanics and conformational states of boron transport systems that can explain their impact on cell biology and whole plant physiology. We expect that this information will form the basis for engineering transporters with optimised features to alleviate boron toxicity tolerance in plants exposed to suboptimal soil conditions for sustained food production.

Keywords: 3D protein modelling; anion efflux transporters; aquaporins; food production; high soil boron.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Boron / toxicity*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plants / drug effects*
  • Plants / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Soil / chemistry


  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Soil
  • Boron