Zinc accumulation in Atriplex lentiformis is driven by plant genes and the soil microbiome

Priyanka Kushwaha, Alexandria Tran, Diego Quintero, Miranda Song, Qi Yu, Ruth Yu, Michael Downes, Ronald M. Evans, Alicja Babst-Kostecka, Julian I. Schroeder, Raina M. Maier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Successful phytoremediation of acidic metal-contaminated mine tailings requires amendments to condition tailings properties prior to plant establishment. This conditioning process is complex and includes multiple changes in tailings bio-physico-chemical properties. The objective of this project is to identify relationships between tailings properties, the soil microbiome, and plant stress response genes during growth of Atriplex lentiformis in compost-amended (10 %, 15 %, 20 % w/w) mine tailings. Analyses include RNA-Seq for plant root gene expression, 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing for bacterial/archaeal communities, metal concentrations in both tailings and plant organs, and phenotypic measures of plant stress. Zn accumulation in A. lentiformis leaves varied with compost levels and was the highest in the intermediate treatment (15 %, TC15). Microbial analysis identified Alicyclobacillus, Hydrotalea, and Pseudolabrys taxa with the highest relative abundance in TC15, and these taxa were strongly associated with Zn accumulation. Furthermore, we identified 190 root genes with significant gene expression changes. These root genes were associated with different pathways including, abscisic acid and auxin signaling, defense responses, ion channels, metal ion binding, oxidative stress, transcription regulation, and transmembrane transport. However, root gene expression changes were not driven by the increasing levels of compost. For example, there were 15 genes that were up-regulated in TC15, whereas 106 genes were down-regulated in TC15. The variables analyzed explained 86 % of the variance in Zn accumulation in A. lentiformis leaves. Importantly, Zn accumulation was driven by Zn shoot concentrations, leaf stress symptoms, plant root genes, and microbial taxa. Therefore, our results suggest there are strong plant-microbiome associations that drive Zn accumulation in A. lentiformis and different plant gene pathways are involved in alleviating varying levels of metal stress. Future work is needed to gain a mechanistic understanding of these plant-microbiome interactions to optimize phytoremediation strategies as they will govern the success or failure of the revegetation process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number165667
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Nov 15 2023


  • Atriplex lentiformis
  • Metal
  • Phytostabilization
  • Plant stress genes
  • Plant supporting microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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