The plant vacuole is an important organelle for storing excess iron (Fe), though its contribution to increasing the Fe content in staple foods remains largely unexplored. In this study we report the isolation and functional characterization of two rice genes OsVIT1 and OsVIT2, orthologs of the Arabidopsis VIT1. Transient expression of OsVIT1:EGFP and OsVIT2:EGFP protein fusions revealed that OsVIT1 and OsVIT2 are localized to the vacuolar membrane. Ectopic expression of OsVIT1 and OsVIT2 partially rescued the Fe(2+) - and Zn(2+) -sensitive phenotypes in yeast mutant ?ccc1 and ?zrc1, and further increased vacuolar Fe(2+) , Zn(2+) and Mn(2+) accumulation. These data together suggest that OsVIT1 and OsVIT2 function to transport Fe(2+) , Zn(2+) and Mn(2+) across the tonoplast into vacuoles in yeast. In rice, OsVIT1 and OsVIT2 are highly expressed in flag leaf blade and sheath, respectively, and in contrast to OsVIT1, OsVIT2 is highly responsive to Fe treatments. Interestingly, functional disruption of OsVIT1 and OsVIT2 leads to increased Fe/Zn accumulation in rice seeds and a corresponding decrease in the source organ flag leaves, indicating an enhanced Fe/Zn translocation between source and sink organs, which might represent a novel strategy to biofortify Fe/Zn in staple foods.
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