Hyperaccumulators tolerate and accumulate extraordinarily high concentrations of heavy metals. Content of the metal chelator nicotianamine (NA) in the root of zinc hyperaccumulator Arabidopsis halleri is elevated compared with nonhyperaccumulators, a trait that is considered to be one of the markers of a hyperaccumulator. Using metabolite-profiling analysis of root secretions, we found that excess zinc treatment induced secretion of NA in A. halleri roots compared with the nonhyperaccumulator Arabidopsis thaliana. Metal speciation analysis further revealed that the secreted NA forms a stable complex with Zn(II). Supplying NA to a nonhyperaccumulator species markedly increased plant zinc tolerance by decreasing zinc uptake. Therefore, NA secretion from A. halleri roots facilitates zinc hypertolerance through forming a Zn(II)-NA complex outside the roots to achieve a coordinated zinc uptake rate into roots. Secretion of NA was also found to be responsible for the maintenance of iron homeostasis under excess zinc. Together our results reveal root-secretion mechanisms associated with hypertolerance and hyperaccumulation
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