Enzymes aid rice plants’ arsenic defenses | Science News

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Enzymes aid rice plants’ arsenic defenses

Converting one form of toxic element to another limits health dangers

By
12:08pm, February 19, 2017
plants

DETOX  Rice plants can convert arsenic to a different form in their roots to push the toxic element back into the soil.

BOSTON — Rooted in place, plants can’t run away from arsenic-tainted soil — but they’re far from helpless. Scientists have identified enzymes that help rice plant roots tame arsenic, converting it into a form that can be pushed back into the soil. That leaves less of the toxic element to spread into the plants’ grains, where it can pose a health risk to humans, researchers reported February 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.   

Once arsenic worms its way into rice plant roots and gets into the vascular system, “it’s transported into the leaves and the grain,” David Salt, a biologist at the University of Nottingham in England who conducted the recent research, said during a news conference. Inside the plant, arsenic “can accumulate to levels where it can potentially be toxic

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