Recently we discovered a tobacco protein (designated NtCBP4) that modulates heavy-metal tolerance in transgenic plants. Structurally, NtCBP4 is similar to mammalian cyclic-nucleotide-gated non-selective cation channels containing six putative transmembrane domains, a predicted pore region, a conserved cyclic-nucleotide-binding domain, and a high-affinity calmodulin-binding site that coincides with its cyclic-nucleotide-binding domain. Transgenic tobacco expressing the plasma-membrane-localized NtCBP4 exhibit improved tolerance to Ni2+ and hypersensitivity to Pb2+, which are associated with a decreased accumulation of Ni2+ and an enhanced accumulation of Pb2+ respectively. Transgenic plants expressing a truncated version of NtCBP4, from which regulatory domains had been removed, have a different phenotype. Here we describe our approach to studying the involvement of NtCBP4 in heavy-metal tolerance and to elucidate its physiological role.

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