Arsenic uptake and metabolism in plants

F J Zhao, J F Ma, A A Meharg, S P McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

950 Citations (Scopus)


Arsenic (As) is an element that is nonessential for and toxic to plants. Arsenic contamination in the environment occurs in many regions, and, depending on environmental factors, its accumulation in food crops may pose a health risk to humans. Recent progress in understanding the mechanisms of As uptake and metabolism in plants is reviewed here. Arsenate is taken up by phosphate transporters. A number of the aquaporin nodulin26-like intrinsic proteins (NIPs) are able to transport arsenite, the predominant form of As in reducing environments. In rice (Oryza sativa), arsenite uptake shares the highly efficient silicon (Si) pathway of entry to root cells and efflux towards the xylem. In root cells arsenate is rapidly reduced to arsenite, which is effluxed to the external medium, complexed by thiol peptides or translocated to shoots. One type of arsenate reductase has been identified, but its in planta functions remain to be investigated. Some fern species in the Pteridaceae family are able to hyperaccumulate As in above-ground tissues. Hyperaccumulation appears to involve enhanced arsenate uptake, decreased arsenite-thiol complexation and arsenite efflux to the external medium, greatly enhanced xylem translocation of arsenite, and vacuolar sequestration of arsenite in fronds. Current knowledge gaps and future research directions are also identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)777-794
Number of pages18
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
Early online date16 Dec 2008
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


  • arsenate
  • arsenate reduction
  • arsenic methylation
  • arsenite
  • hyperaccumulation
  • tolerance
  • hyperaccumulator pteris-vittata
  • sunflower helianthus-annuus
  • oryza-sativa l.
  • specificity tyrosine-phosphatase
  • tolerant holcus-lanatus
  • long-distance transport
  • metal-binding peptides
  • fungus glomus-mosseae
  • Chinese brake fern
  • iron plaque


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