Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: January 5, 2001
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The importance of mineral nutrients to crop production has been recognized for over 2000 years. Plant mineral nutrition is unique because green plants, the only multicellular autotrophic organisms, can mine inorganic elements from the environment without having to rely on high energy compounds synthesized by other organisms. Recently, there has been a tremendous upsurge in research and interest in plant mineral nutrition as approaches in membrane biophysics, molecular biology and plant physiology have been used to dissect the underlying mechanisms of mineral nutrient ion transport and utilization. We are witnessing an exciting time in research into plant mineral ion transport as a range of molecular approaches have allowed for the cloning of families of mineral ion transporters and microelectrode technologies have allowed us to study the function of these individual transporters, both when expressed in heterologous systems and when studied in planta. The challenge now at hand is to begin to fit these individual pieces back together in order to understand the molecular physiology of the intact plant, in terms of the mechanisms and regulation of mineral nutrient acquisition and utilization. This chapter will focus on recent findings concerning the molecular physiology of macro- and micronutrient transport, as well as mechanisms plants employ to tolerate stressful soil environments such as toxic levels of metals in the soil. The emphasis will be on those essential mineral elements, such as potassium (K) and iron (Fe), where researchers are beginning to understand the strategies plants use to acquire and transport these minerals. Additionally, recent experimental and technological advances in the cloning and characterization of mineral ion transporters will be described.