Chromate alters root system architecture and activates expression of genes involved in iron homeostasis and signaling in Arabidopsis thaliana

Miguel Martínez-Trujillo, Alfonso Méndez-Bravo, Randy Ortiz-Castro, Fátima Hernández-Madrigal, Enrique Ibarra-Laclette, León Francisco Ruiz-Herrera, Terri A. Long, Carlos Cervantes, Luis Herrera-Estrella, José López-Bucio

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20 Scopus citations


Soil contamination by hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI) or chromate] due to anthropogenic activities has become an increasingly important environmental problem. To date few studies have been performed to elucidate the signaling networks involved on adaptive responses to (CrVI) toxicity in plants. In this work, we report that depending upon its concentration, Cr(VI) alters in different ways the architecture of the root system in Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings. Low concentrations of Cr (20-40 μM) promoted primary root growth, while concentrations higher than 60 μM Cr repressed growth and increased formation of root hairs, lateral root primordia and adventitious roots. We analyzed global gene expression changes in seedlings grown in media supplied with 20 or 140 μM Cr. The level of 731 transcripts was significantly modified in response to Cr treatment with only five genes common to both Cr concentrations. Interestingly, 23 genes related to iron (Fe) acquisition were up-regulated including IRT1, YSL2, FRO5, BHLH100, BHLH101 and BHLH039 and the master controllers of Fe deficiency responses PYE and BTS were specifically activated in pericycle cells. It was also found that increasing concentration of Cr in the plant correlated with a decrease in Fe content, but increased both acidification of the rhizosphere and activity of the ferric chelate reductase. Supply of Fe to Cr-treated Arabidopsis allowed primary root to resume growth and alleviated toxicity symptoms, indicating that Fe nutrition is a major target of Cr stress in plants. Our results show that low Cr levels are beneficial to plants and that toxic Cr concentrations activate a low-Fe rescue system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-50
Number of pages16
JournalPlant molecular biology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Arabidopsis
  • Chromium
  • Gene expression
  • Iron homeostasis
  • Root development


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