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2-Plants: GM trees most poplar choice for metals remediation

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  GM trees most poplar choice for metals remediation
SOURCE: Edie News Centre, by David Hopkins
        posted by Checkbiotech, Switzerland
DATE:   1 Sep 2005

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GM trees most poplar choice for metals remediation

Genetically modified poplar trees could offer the best hope for
remediation of soils contaminated with high levels of heavy metals such
as zinc.

Poplar trees are already known to be good candidates for bio-remediation
because of their fast growth rates and large biomass production. They
also have an extensive root system which ensures a large uptake of the
soil water containing the pollutants.

Their fast growth makes them ideal for use in industries such as paper
and biomass, maximising their commercial potential on contaminated sites.

Several other inorganic pollutants can be taken up by poplars, including
cadmium and mercury, yet their tolerance is restricted because they can
only remediate a certain amount.

Now, scientists from the Plant Protection Institute at the Hungarian
Academy of Sciences in Budapest have found that trees with an increased
amount of an enzyme called y-glutamylcysteine-synthetase (y-ECS) take up
more cadmium than plants with less of the enzyme.

They then used this knowledge to conduct an experiment using transgenic
poplars that significantly overproduced the y-ECS enzyme and examined the
uptake of heavy metals.

The experiments found that the GM trees accumulated more of the metals
than the others. The GM-poplars were found to be more tolerant to zinc
exposure than their non-GM counterparts and therefore, the scientists
claim, more suitable for bio-remediation purposes.

The scientists, led by Dr Tamas Komives, said there was huge potential
for these trees in phyto-remediation projects. His team has applied for
permission to plant the stress tolerant GM trees at an industrial waste
site where the non-GM poplar trees are suffering due to the high levels
of toxicity.

Last week, edie news reported that researchers in Scottish Universities
had found that fungi living on the roots of Scots pine trees can make
powerful acids to help dissolve pollutants making them easier for take up
by the plants (see related story).


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