The SlZRT1 gene encodes a plasma membrane-located ZIP (Zrt-, Irt-Like Protein) transporter in the ectomycorrhizal fungus Suillus luteus

Laura Coninx, Anneleen Thoonen, Eli Slenders, Emmanuelle Morin, Natascha Arnauts, Michiel Op De Beeck, Annegret Kohler, Joske Ruytinx, Jan V Colpaert (see publication in Journal )


Zn is an essential micronutrient but may become toxic when present in excess. In Zn-contaminated environments, trees can be protected from Zn toxicity by their root-associated micro-organisms, in particular ectomycorrhizal fungi. The mechanisms of cellular Zn homeostasis in ectomycorrhizal fungi and their contribution to the host tree’s Zn status are however not yet fully understood. The aim of this study was to identify and characterize transporters involved in Zn uptake in the ectomycorrhizal fungus S. luteus, a cosmopolitan pine mycobiont. Zn uptake in fungi is known to be predominantly governed by members of the ZIP (Zrt/IrtT-like protein) family of Zn transporters. Four ZIP transporter encoding genes were identified in the S. luteus genome. By in silico and phylogenetic analysis, one of these proteins, SlZRT1, was predicted to be a plasma membrane located Zn importer. Heterologous expression in yeast confirmed the predicted function and localization of the protein. A gene expression analysis via RT-qPCR was performed in S. luteus to establish whether SlZRT1 expression is affected by external Zn concentrations. SlZRT1 transcripts accumulated almost immediately, though transiently upon growth in the absence of Zn. Exposure to elevated concentrations of Zn resulted in a significant reduction of SlZRT1 transcripts within the first hour after initiation of the exposure. Altogether, the data support a role as cellular Zn importer for SlZRT1 and indicate a key role in cellular Zn uptake of S. luteus. Further research is needed to understand the eventual contribution of SlZRT1 to the Zn status of the host plant.