Engineering Plants for Phytoremediation

  • Mamta Baunthiyal


In order to restore environmental balance, the utility of phytoremediation to remediate environmental contamination has received much attention in the last few years. Considerable effort has been devoted to making the transition from the laboratory to commercialization. Although plants have the inherent ability to detoxify contaminants, they generally lack the catabolic pathway for the complete degradation of these compounds as compared to microorganisms. There are also concerns over the potential for the introduction of contaminants into the food chain and how to dispose of plants that accumulate them in high quantities is also a serious concern. Hence, the utility of phytoremediation to remediate environmental contamination is still somewhat in question. For these reasons, researchers have endeavored to engineer plants with genes that can bestow superior degradation abilities. Genes from microbes, plants, and animals are being used successfully to enhance the ability of plants to tolerate, remove, and degrade pollutants. Although improvement of plants by genetic engineering opens up new possibilities for phytoremediation, it is still in its research and development phase, with many technical issues needing to be addressed.


Transgenic Plant Heavy Metal Tolerance Transgenic Poplar Carbon Preference Index Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Baker AJM, McGrath SP, Reeves RD, Smith JAC (2000) Metal hyperaccumulator plants: a review of the ecology and physiology of a biological resource for phytoremediation of metal polluted soils. In: Terry N, Banuelos G (eds) Phytoremediation of contaminated soil and water. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, pp 85–107Google Scholar
  2. Bizily SP, Ruch CL, Meagher RB (2000) Phytodetoxification of hazardous organo-mercurials by genetically engineered plants. Nat Biotechnol 18:213–217PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chaney RL, Malik M, Li YM, Brown S, Brewer EP, Angel JS, Baker AJ (1997) Phytoremediation of soil material. Curr Opin Biotechnol 8:279–284PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Davison J (2005) Risk mitigation of genetically modified bacteria and plants designed for bioremediation. J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol 32:639–650PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dhankher OP, Li Y, Rosen BP, Shi J, Salt D, Senecoff JF, Sashti NA, Meagher RB (2002) Engineering tolerance and hyperaccumulation of arsenic in plants by combining arsenate reductase and γglutamylcysteine synthetase expression. J Nat Biotechnol 20:1140–1145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Doty SL, Shang QT, Wilson AM, Moore AL, Newman LA, Strand SE, Gordon MP (2000) Enhanced metabolism of halogenated hydrocarbons in transgenic plants contain mammalian P450 2E1. Proc Natal Acad Sci USA 97:6287–6291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Doty SL, James CA, Moore AL, Vajzovic A, Singleton GL, Ma C, Khan Z, Xin G, Kang JW, Park JY, Meilan R, Strauss SH, Wilkerson J, Farin F, Strand SE (2007) Enhanced phytoremediation of volatile environmental pollutants with transgenic trees. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104(43):16816–16821PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Doty SL (2008) Tansley review: enhancing phytoremediation through the use of transgenics and endophytes. New Phytol 179:318–333PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dowling DN, Doty SL (2009) Improving phytoremediation through biotechnology. Curr Opin Biotechnol 20:1–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eide D, Broderius M, Fett JM, Guerinot ML (1996) A novel iron-regulated metal transporter from plants identified by functional expression in yeast. Proc Natl Acad Sci 93(11):5624–5628PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Flocco CG, Lindblom SD, Smits EAHP (2004) Overexpression of enzymes involved in glutathione synthesis enhances tolerance to organic pollutants in Brassica juncea. Int J Phytoremediat 6:289–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. French CJ, Rosser SJ, Davies GJ, Nicklin S, Bruce NC (1999) Biodegradation of explosives by transgenic plants expressing pentaerythritol tetranitrate reductase. Nat Biotechnol 17:491–494PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fulekar MH, Singh A, Bhaduri AM (2009) Genetic engineering strategies for enhancing phytoremediation of heavy metals. Afr J Biotechnol 8(4):529–535Google Scholar
  14. Gandia-Herrero F, Lorenz A, Larson T, Graham IA, Bowles J, Rylott EL et al (2008) Detoxification of the explosive 2,4,6- trinitrotoluene in Arabidopsis: discovery of bifunctional O and C-glucosyltransferases. Plant J 56:963–974. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2008.03653.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gerhardt KE, Huang XD, Glick BR, Greenberg BM (2009) Phytoremediation and rhizoremediation of organic soil contaminants: potential and challenges. Plant Sci 176:20–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grichko VP, Filby B, Glick BR (2000) Increased ability of transgenic plants expressing the enzyme ACC deaminase to accumulate Cd, Co., Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn. J Biotechnol 81:45–53PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hamer DH (1986) Metallothioneins. Ann Rev Biochem 55:913–951PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hansen D, Duda P, Zayed AM, Terry N (1998) Selenium removal by constructed wetlands: role of biological volatilization. Environ Sci Technol 32:591–597CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hirose S, Kawahigashi H, Ozawa K, Shiota N, Inui H, Ohkawa H et al (2005) Transgenic rice containing human CYP2B6 detoxifies various classes of herbicides. J Agric Food Chem 53:3461–3467PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kawahigashi H, Hirose S, Inui H, Ohkawa H, Ohkawa Y (2003) Transgenic rice plants expressing human CYP1A1 exudes herbicide metabolites from their roots. Plant Sci 165:373–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kawahigashi H, Hirose S, Ohkawa H, Ohkawa Y (2006) Phytoremediation of herbicide atrazine and metolachlor by transgenic rice plants expressing human CYP1A1, CYP2B6 and CYP2C19. J Agric Food Chem 54:2985–2991PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. LeDuc DL, Tarun AS, Montes-Bayon M, Meija J et al (2004) Overexpression of selenocysteine methyltransferase in Arabidopsis and Indian mustard increases selenium tolerance and accumulation. Plant Physiol 135:377–383PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Liste HH, Alexander M (2000) Accumulation of phenanthrene and pyrene in rhizosphere soil. Chemosphere 40:11–14PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lu YP, Li ZS, Rea PA (1997) AtMRP1 gene of Arabidopsis encodes a glutathione S-conjugate pump: isolation and functional definition of a plant ATP-binding cassette transporter gene. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 94:8243–8248PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Malin M, Bülow L (2001) Metal-binding proteins and peptides in bioremediation and phytoremediation of heavy metals. Trends Biotechnol 19:67–72Google Scholar
  26. Monti MR, Smania AM, Fabro G, Alvarez ME, Argarana CE (2005) Engineering Pseudomonas fluorescens for biodegradation of 2,4-dinitrotoluene. Appl Environ Microbiol 71:8864–8872PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Oller ALW, Agostini E, Talano MA, Capozucca C, Milrad SR, Tigier HA et al (2005) Overexpression of a basic peroxidase in transgenic tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Pera) hairy roots increases phytoremediation of phenol. Plant Sci 169:1102–1111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Phytoremediation at the hydrocarbon burn facility at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida cfm? ProjectID= 25 (July 22, 2008)
  29. Rugh CL, Wilde D, Stack NM, Thompson DM, Summers AO, Meagher RB (1996) Mercuric ion reduction and resistancein transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana plants expressing a modified bacterial merA gene. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 93:3182–3187PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schat H, Llugany M, Vooijs R, Hartley-Whitaker J, Bleeker PM (2002) The role of phytochelatins in constitutive and adaptive heavy metal tolerances in hyperaccumulator and non-hyperaccumulator metallophytes. J Exp Bot 53:2381–2392PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Shah K, Nongkynrih J (2007) Metal hyperaccumulation and bioremediation. Biol Plant 51(4):618–634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Tong YP, Kneer R, Zhu YG (2004) Vacuolar compartmentalization: a second-generation approach to engineering plants for phytoremediation. Trends Plant Sci 9:7–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Van Aken B, Yoon JM, Schnoor JL (2004) Biodegradation of nitro-substituted explosives 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene, hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine, and octahydro-1,3,5,7-tetranitro-1,3,5-tetrazocine by a phytosymbiotic Methylobacterium sp. associated with poplar tissues (Populus deltoides × nigra DN34). Appl Environ Microbiol 70:508–517PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Villacieros M, Whelan C, Mackova M, Molgaard J, Sánchez-Contreras M, Lloret J, Aguirre de Cárcer D, Oruezábal RI, Bolaños L, Macek T, Karlson U, Dowling DN, Martín M, Rivilla R (2005) Polychlorinated biphenyl rhizoremediation by Pseudomonas fluorescens F113 derivatives, using a Sinorhizobium meliloti nod system to drive bph gene expression. Appl Environ Microbiol 71:2687–2694PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wang GD, Li QJ, Luo B, Chen XY (2004) Ex planta phytoremediation of trichlorophenol andphenolic allelochemicals via engineered secretory laccase. Nat Biotechnol 22:893–897PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Yamada T, Ishige T, Shiota N, Inui H, Ohkawa H, Ohkawa Y (2002) Enhancement of metabolizing herbicides in young tubers of transgenic potato plants with the rat CYP1A1 gene. Theor Appl Genet 105:515–520PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Yee DC, Maynard JA, Wood TK (1998) Rhizoremediation of trichloroethylene by a recombinant, root-colonizing Pseudomonas fluorescens strain expressing toluene ortho-monooxygenase constitutively. Appl Environ Microbiol 64:112–118PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Zhu YL, Pilon-Smits EAH, Tarun AS, Weber SU, Jouanin L, Terry N (1999) Cadmium tolerance and accumulation in Indian mustard is enhanced by overexpressing glutamylcysteine synthetase. Plant Physiol 121:1169–1177PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer India 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Govind Ballabh Pant Engineering CollegePauriIndia

Personalised recommendations