David G. Mendoza-Cózatl, Ph.D.

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Division of Plant Sciences
Institution
University of Missouri
Address
1201 Rollins Street (271F)
City, State, Zip
Columbia, MO 65211
Country
United States
E-mail
mendozacozatld[at]missouri.edu
Website
http://plantsci.missouri.edu/faculty/mendoza-cozatl.cfm
Research Field
Plant biology
Award Year
2006
Country Of Origin
Mexico
Mentor Name
Julian I. Schroeder, Ph.D.

Research

I am interested in understanding the molecular, biochemical and mechanistic processes by which plants resist and accumulate heavy metals. This is the basis of an expanding technology named phytoremediation: the use of plants to remove toxic compounds from contaminated sites. One crucial step in plant heavy metal homeostasis is the translocation of metals from roots to shoots. In addition to phytoremediation, this translocation is also of interest in food biotechnology in order to prohibit the accumulation of toxic metals in food crops while ensuring accumulation of essential metals (i.e. iron, zinc, copper). In plants, one of the major mechanisms involved in resistance/accumulation of cadmium and other heavy metals is the synthesis of small chelating peptides derived from glutathione named phytochelatins (PCs). Usually these peptides chelate, and thus detoxify, heavy metals in the cytosol to be finally transported into the vacuole. However, recent findings have shown that in Arabidopsis, PCs can also undergo long-distance transport altering the root-to-shoot distribution of cadmium in the whole plant. I am focusing on identifying and characterizing the transporters responsible of the long-distance transport of PCs and heavy metals as well as to develop strategies to increase the cadmium resistance-accumulation capacity in Arabidopsis. Initial studies have shown that single-enzyme over expression strategies to increase the resistance/accumulation capacity is not very efficient and even toxic compared to a multiple gene over expression strategy.