Poplar maintains zinc homeostasis with heavy metal genes HMA4 and PCS1
Perennial woody species, such as poplar (Populus spp.) must acquire necessary heavy metals like zinc (Zn) while avoiding potential toxicity. Poplar contains genes with sequence homology to genes HMA4 and PCS1 from other species which are involved in heavy metal regulation. While basic genomic conservation exists, poplar does not have a hyperaccumulating phenotype. Poplar has a common indicator phenotype in which heavy metal accumulation is proportional to environmental concentrations but excesses are prevented. Phenotype is partly affected by regulation of HMA4 and PCS1 transcriptional abundance. Wild-type poplar down-regulates several transcripts in its Zn-interacting pathway at high Zn levels. Also, overexpressed PtHMA4 and PtPCS1 genes result in varying Zn phenotypes in poplar; specifically, there is a doubling of Zn accumulation in leaf tissues in an overexpressed PtPCS1 line. The genomic complement and regulation of poplar highlighted in this study supports a role of HMA4 and PCS1 in Zn regulation dictating its phenotype. These genes can be altered in poplar to change its interaction with Zn. However, other poplar genes in the surrounding pathway may maintain the phenotype by inhibiting drastic changes in heavy metal accumulation with a single gene transformation.