Heavy metal detoxification: Lessons learned from plants, yeast and nematodes
Lecture, Seminar, or Colloquium
The adverse health effects of heavy metals and metalloids (e.g. cadmium [Cd], mercury [Hg], lead [Pb] and arsenic [As]) are well established. Despite this knowledge, exposure to heavy metals continues, and even increases in some areas, due to their sustained production and emission into the environment. Achieving an integrated understanding of how organisms detoxify noxious heavy metals and developing remedies require the identification of detoxification pathways and analyses of their components. In this regard, the role of transport proteins and regulators of their expression and/or activity are recognized as significant contributors to the maintenance of metal homeostasis and the prevention of the consequences of heavy metal exposure. The over-arching questions in the field remain surprisingly basic: of the many transporters encoded in even the simplest organism’s genome, which ones are specific for heavy metal transport and detoxification, how are homeostatic pathways for micronutrients and toxic metals related, and which cellular ligands facilitate heavy metal transport? We use multifaceted approaches in a model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, a model invertebrate animal, the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, and yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe to identify and characterize the conserved and unique heavy metal detoxification pathways, and regulatory networks that orchestrate crosstalk between micronutrients and noxious metals.