Journal Article

Investigating Heavy-metal Hyperaccumulation using <i>Thlaspi caerulescens</i> as a Model System

Matthew J. Milner and Leon V. Kochian

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 102, issue 1, pages 3-13
Published in print July 2008 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online April 2008 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Investigating Heavy-metal Hyperaccumulation using Thlaspi caerulescens as a Model System

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Metal-hyperaccumulating plant species are plants that are endemic to metalliferous soils and are able to tolerate and accumulate metals in their above-ground tissues to very high concentrations. One such hyperaccumulator, Thlaspi caerulescens, has been widely studied for its remarkable properties to tolerate toxic levels of zinc (Zn), cadmium (Cd) and sometimes nickel (Ni) in the soil, and accumulate these metals to very high levels in the shoot. The increased awareness regarding metal-hyperaccumulating plants by the plant biology community has helped spur interest in the possible use of plants to remove heavy metals from contaminated soils, a process known as phytoremediation. Hence, there has been a focus on understanding the mechanisms that metal-hyperaccumulator plant species such as Thlaspi caerulescens employ to absorb, detoxify and store metals in order to use this information to develop plants better suited for the phytoremediation of metal-contaminated soils.


In this review, an overview of the findings from recent research aimed at better understanding the physiological mechanisms of Thlaspi caerulescens heavy-metal hyperaccumulation as well as the underlying molecular and genetic determinants for this trait will be discussed. Progress has been made in understanding some of the fundamental Zn and Cd transport physiology in T. caerulescens. Furthermore, some interesting metal-related genes have been identified and characterized in this plant species, and regulation of the expression of some of these genes may be important for hyperaccumulation.


Thlaspi caerulescens is a fascinating and useful model system not only for studying metal hyperaccumulation, but also for better understanding micronutrient homeostasis and nutrition. Considerable future research is still needed to elucidate the molecular, genetic and physiological bases for the extreme metal tolerance and hyperaccumulation exhibited by plant species such as T. caerulescens.

Keywords: Zn; Cd; Ni; Thlaspi caerulescens; hyperacumulator; phytoremediation; heavy metal

Journal Article.  8565 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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