At the molecular level, little is known about the transport of copper across plant membranes. We have isolated an Arabidopsis thaliana cDNA by complementation of a mutant (ctr1-3) of Saccharomyces cerevisiae defective in high affinity copper uptake. This cDNA codes for a highly hydrophobic protein (COPT1) of 169 amino acid residues and with three putative transmembrane domains. Most noteworthy, the first 44 residues display significant homology to the methionine- and histidine-rich copper binding domain of three bacterial copper binding proteins, among these a copper transporting ATPase. Mutant yeast cells expressing COPT1 exhibit nearly wild type behavior with regard to growth on a nonfermentable carbon source and resistance to copper and iron starvation. Expression of COPT1 is also associated with an increased sensitivity to copper toxicity. Additionally, COPT1 shows significant homology to an open reading frame of 189 amino acid residues on yeast chromosome VIII. This gene (CTR2) may encode an additional yeast metal transporter able to mediate the uptake of copper.A mutation in CTR2 displays a higher level of resistance to toxic copper concentrations. Overexpression of CTR2 provides increased resistance to copper starvation and is also associated with an increased sensitivity to copper toxicity. The amino acid sequence of CTR2, like Arabidopsis COPT1, contains three potential transmembrane domains. Taken together, the data suggest that a plant metal transporter, which is most likely involved in the transport of copper, has been identified.
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