Arsenic hyperaccumulation in gametophytes of Pteris vittata: a new model system for analysis of arsenic hyperaccumulation

Luke Gumaelius, Brett Lahner, David Edward Salt, Jody A. Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


The sporophyte of the fern Pteris vittata is known to hyperaccumulate arsenic (As) in its fronds to >1% of its dry weight. Hyperaccumulation of As by plants has been identified as a valuable trait for the development of a practical phytoremediation processes for removal of this potentially toxic trace element from the environment. However, because the sporophyte of R vittata is a slow growing perennial plant, with a large genome and no developed genetics tools, it is not ideal for investigations into the basic mechanisms underlying As hyperaccumulation in plants. However, like other homosporous ferns, P. vittata produces and releases abundant haploid spores from the parent sporophyte plant which upon germination develop as free-living, autotrophic haploid gametophyte consisting of a small (<1 mm) single-layered sheet of cells. Its small size, rapid growth rate, ease of culture, and haploid genome make the gametophyte a potentially ideal system for the application of both forward and reverse genetics for the study of As hyperaccumulation. Here we report that gametophytes of P. vittata hyperaccumulate As in a similar manner to that previously observed in the sporophyte. Gametophytes are able to grow normally in medium containing 20 mm arsenate and accumulate >2.5% of their dry weight as As. This contrasts with gametophytes of the related nonaccumulating fern Ceratopteris richardii, which die at even low (0.1 mm) As concentrations. Interestingly, gametophytes of the related As accumulator Pityrogramma calomelanos appear to tolerate and accumulate As to intermediate levels compared to R vittata and C. richardii. Analysis of gametophyte populations from 40 different P. vittata sporophyte plants collected at different sites in Florida also revealed the existence of natural variability in As tolerance but not accumulation. Such observations should open the door to the application of new and powerful genetic tools for the dissection of the molecular mechanisms involved in As hyperaccumulation in R vittata using gametophytes as an easily manipulated model system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3198-3208
Number of pages11
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004


  • Holcus lanatus L
  • phosphate-uptake system
  • contaminated soils
  • public health
  • plant
  • fern
  • phytoremediation
  • accumulation
  • speciation
  • tolerance


Dive into the research topics of 'Arsenic hyperaccumulation in gametophytes of Pteris vittata: a new model system for analysis of arsenic hyperaccumulation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this