Cadmium (Cd) is a toxic trace element released into the environment by industrial and agricultural practices, threatening the health of plants and contaminating the food/feed chain. Biotechnology can be used to develop plant varieties with a higher capacity for Cd accumulation (for use in phytoremediation programs) or a lower capacity for Cd accumulation (to reduce Cd levels in food and feed). Here we generated transgenic tobacco plants expressing components of the Pseudomonas putida CzcCBA efflux system. Plants were transformed with combinations of the CzcC, CzcB and CzcA genes, and the impact on Cd mobilization was analysed. Plants expressing PpCzcC showed no differences in Cd accumulation, whereas those expressing PpCzcB or PpCzcA accumulated less Cd in the shoots, but more Cd in the roots. Plants expressing both PpCzcB and PpCzcA accumulated less Cd in the shoots and roots compared to controls, whereas plants expressing all three genes showed a significant reduction in Cd levels only in shoots. These results show that components of the CzcCBA system can be expressed in plants and may be useful for developing plants with a reduced capacity to accumulate Cd in the shoots, potentially reducing the toxicity of food/feed crops cultivated in Cd-contaminated soils.
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