How an ABC transporter gets rid of arsenic

Not only from Agatha Christie’s books we know that arsenic is toxic. It is even a carcinogen and, most importantly, is contaminating the groundwater in a lot of countries. Removing arsenic from water and food is a tremendous task and will improve the health of many people.

Therefore a paper on an ABC transporter in rice which excludes arsenic from the grains is a welcome addition to the tasks involved. ABC transporter are evolutionary very old molecules which transports ligands across membranes with the help of ATP. Song and colleagues found out that the rice (Oryza sativa) the ABC transporter C1 (OrABCC1) lowers the arsenic content in the grain therefore the food is not contaminated in the way the water it is grown is. The molecule is also expressed in other parts of rice. When genetically engineered into wheat, it could transfer the resistance to arsenic. In rice, its expression is increased when arsenic gets higher. It is arsenic specific, since when knock-out the arsenic resistance was gone but not the cadmium resistance.

Immunologists will know ABC transporters involved in the transfer of degraded peptides into the ER to be loaded eventually into the histocompatibility class I molecules. Obviously, they can do much more.

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