This project aims to advance our fundamental molecular understanding of metal homeostasis in plants, enabling the rational design of bio-fortification and phytoremediation technologies. Nutritional zinc deficiency affects more than a third of the World’s population. Also, large areas of soils in industrialized nations are contaminated with high levels of chemically similar harmful metals such as lead and cadmium. Since plants are a major route for the entry of both essential and toxic non-essential trace elements into the food chain, a comprehensive molecular understanding of metal homeostasis networks governing trace element accumulation in plants is highly desirable. Following from recent progress in the field, the proposed project will tackle three selected central aspects of plant zinc homeostasis. The role of low-molecular weight chelators in subcellular partitioning of zinc will be addressed through biochemical analysis of Arabidopsis thaliana ZIF1, a vacuolar membrane protein required for zinc tolerance, through combined reverse genetics, biochemistry and recently developed sub-cellular fractionation techniques. A forward genetic screen will identify genes within regulatory pathways governing zinc homeostasis, based on unique tools and technical expertise previously generated by the applicant. Finally, molecular regulatory links within the metal homeostasis network will be revealed by combining genetic resources uniquely available in the host lab and from the applicant, and subjecting them to genome-wide transcript profiling. This research will not only advance metal homeostasis, but also our general understanding of regulation and signalling in plants. By integrating unique tools, resources and knowledge between the applicant, his laboratory of origin in Australia and the European host lab, tight collaborative links will be established, thus accelerating scientific progress and fostering continued scientific exchange between Europe and Australia.
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