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Metabolites and metals in Metazoa – what role do phytochelatins play in animals?

Bundy, J. G. and Kille, Peter 2014. Metabolites and metals in Metazoa – what role do phytochelatins play in animals? Metallomics 6 (9) , pp. 1576-1582. 10.1039/C4MT00078A

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Phytochelatins are sulfur-rich metal-binding peptides, and phytochelatin synthesis is one of the key mechanisms by which plants protect themselves against toxic soft metal ions such as cadmium. It has been known for a while now that some invertebrates also possess functional phytochelatin synthase (PCS) enzymes, and that at least one species, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, produces phytochelatins to help detoxify cadmium, and probably also other metal and metalloid ions including arsenic, zinc, selenium, silver, and copper. Here, we review recent studies on the occurrence, utilization, and regulation of phytochelatin synthesis in invertebrates. The phytochelatin synthase gene has a wide phylogenetic distribution, and can be found in species that cover almost all of the animal tree of life. The evidence to date, though, suggests that the occurrence is patchy, and even though some members of particular taxonomic groups may contain PCS genes, there are also many species without these genes. For animal species that do possess PCS genes, some of them (e.g. earthworms) do synthesize phytochelatins in response to potentially toxic elements, whereas others (e.g. Schistosoma mansoni, a parasitic helminth) do not appear to do so. Just how (and if) phytochelatins in invertebrates complement the function of metallothioneins remains to be elucidated, and the temporal, spatial, and metal specificity of the two systems is still unknown.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Royal Society of Chemistry
ISSN: 1756-5901
Date of Acceptance: 6 June 2014
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2019 14:13

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