We study the molecular mechanisms of heavy metal detoxification. Heavy metals (e.g. cadmium[Cd2+], arsenic [As3+], mercury [Hg2+] and lead [Pb2+]) are metallic elements with densities exceeding 5 g/cm3. At the cellular level, the toxicity of heavy metals results from the displacement of endogenous co-factors from their cellular binding sites, thiol-capping of essential proteins, and promotion of the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). At the organismal level these effects result in damaged mental and central nervous function, dysfunction of vital organs, and, in acute cases, cancer.

We use two model systems, the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, and the model invertebrate animal, the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, to study common and unique mechanisms used by different species for heavy metal detoxification.  Specifically, we are interested in transport processes, essential for maintaining the concentration of heavy metals and by-products of metal toxicity in the cytosol below the limit of toxicity.


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