The zinc hyperaccumulator plant Arabidopsis halleri is able to naturally accumulate 100-fold higher leaf zinc concentrations when compared with non-accumulator species such as the closely related A. lyrata and A. thaliana, without showing toxicity symptoms. A novel member of the cation diffusion facilitator (CDF) protein family, an A. halleri metal tolerance protein 1 (MTP1), and the homologous A. thaliana Zn transporter (ZAT)/AtMTP1 metal-specifically complement the zinc hypersensitivity of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae zrc1 cot1 mutant strain. A fusion of the AhMTP1 protein to green fluorescent protein (GFP) localizes to the vacuolar membrane of A. thaliana protoplasts. When compared with A. lyrata and A. thaliana, the total MTP1 transcript levels are substantially higher in the leaves and upregulated upon exposure to high zinc concentrations in the roots of A. halleri. The high MTP1 transcript levels in A. halleri can be primarily attributed to two genetically unlinked genomic AhMTP1 gene copies. The two corresponding loci co-segregate with zinc tolerance in the back-cross 1 generation of a cross between the zinc-tolerant species A. halleri and the zinc-sensitive species A. lyrata. In contrast, a third MTP1 gene in the genome of A. halleri generates only minor amounts of MTP1 transcripts and does not co-segregate with zinc tolerance. Our data suggests that zinc tolerance in A. halleri involves an expanded copy number of an ancestral MTP1 gene, encoding functional proteins that mediate the detoxification of zinc in the cell vacuole. At the transcript level, MTP1 gene copies of A. halleri are regulated differentially and in response to changes in zinc supply.
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