Investigating the toxicity, uptake, nanoparticle formation and genetic response of plants to gold

Andrew F Taylor, Elizabeth L Rylott, Christopher W N Anderson, Neil C Bruce

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We have studied the physiological and genetic responses of Arabidopsis thaliana L. (Arabidopsis) to gold. The root lengths of Arabidopsis seedlings grown on nutrient agar plates containing 100 mg/L gold were reduced by 75%. Oxidized gold was subsequently found in roots and shoots of these plants, but gold nanoparticles (reduced gold) were only observed in the root tissues. We used a microarray-based study to monitor the expression of candidate genes involved in metal uptake and transport in Arabidopsis upon gold exposure. There was up-regulation of genes involved in plant stress response such as glutathione transferases, cytochromes P450, glucosyl transferases and peroxidases. In parallel, our data show the significant down-regulation of a discreet number of genes encoding proteins involved in the transport of copper, cadmium, iron and nickel ions, along with aquaporins, which bind to gold. We used Medicago sativa L. (alfalfa) to study nanoparticle uptake from hydroponic culture using ionic gold as a non-nanoparticle control and concluded that nanoparticles between 5 and 100 nm in diameter are not directly accumulated by plants. Gold nanoparticles were only observed in plants exposed to ionic gold in solution. Together, we believe our results imply that gold is taken up by the plant predominantly as an ionic form, and that plants respond to gold exposure by up-regulating genes for plant stress and down-regulating specific metal transporters to reduce gold uptake.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere93793
Pages (from-to)e93793
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2014

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