Identification of a family of zinc transporter genes from Arabidopsis that respond to zinc deficiency

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Jun 9;95(12):7220-4. doi: 10.1073/pnas.95.12.7220.


Millions of people worldwide suffer from nutritional imbalances of essential metals like zinc. These same metals, along with pollutants like cadmium and lead, contaminate soils at many sites around the world. In addition to posing a threat to human health, these metals can poison plants, livestock, and wildlife. Deciphering how metals are absorbed, transported, and incorporated as protein cofactors may help solve both of these problems. For example, edible plants could be engineered to serve as better dietary sources of metal nutrients, and other plant species could be tailored to remove metal ions from contaminated soils. We report here the cloning of the first zinc transporter genes from plants, the ZIP1, ZIP2, and ZIP3 genes of Arabidopsis thaliana. Expression in yeast of these closely related genes confers zinc uptake activities. In the plant, ZIP1 and ZIP3 are expressed in roots in response to zinc deficiency, suggesting that they transport zinc from the soil into the plant. Although expression of ZIP2 has not been detected, a fourth related Arabidopsis gene identified by genome sequencing, ZIP4, is induced in both shoots and roots of zinc-limited plants. Thus, ZIP4 may transport zinc intracellularly or between plant tissues. These ZIP proteins define a family of metal ion transporters that are found in plants, protozoa, fungi, invertebrates, and vertebrates, making it now possible to address questions of metal ion accumulation and homeostasis in diverse organisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Genes, Plant*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis
  • Zinc / deficiency*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Zinc

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF033535
  • GENBANK/AF033536
  • GENBANK/AF033537