Selenium uptake, translocation, assimilation and metabolic fate in plants

Thomas G. Sors, Danielle R. Ellis, David Edward Salt

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

457 Citations (Scopus)


The chemical and physical resemblance between selenium (Se) and sulfur (S) establishes that both these elements share common metabolic pathways in plants. The presence of isologous Se and S compounds indicates that these elements compete in biochemical processes that affect uptake, translocation and assimilation throughout plant development. Yet, minor but crucial differences in reactivity and other metabolic interactions infer that some biochemical processes involving Se may be excluded from those relating to S. This review examines the current understanding of physiological and biochemical relationships between S and Se metabolism by highlighting their similarities and differences in relation to uptake, transport and assimilation pathways as observed in Se hyperaccumulator and non-accumulator plant species. The exploitation of genetic resources used in bioengineering strategies of plants is illuminating the function of sulfate transporters and key enzymes of the S assimilatory pathway in relation to Se accumulation and final metabolic fate. These strategies are providing the basic framework by which to resolve questions relating to the essentiality of Se in plants and the mechanisms utilized by Se hyperaccumulators to circumvent toxicity. In addition, such approaches may assist in the future application of genetically engineered Se accumulating plants for environmental renewal and human health objectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-389
Number of pages17
JournalPhotosynthesis research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


  • APS reductase
  • ATP sulfurylase
  • S-methylcysteine
  • Se-methylselenocysteine
  • selenocysteine methyltransferase
  • sulfur
  • volatilization
  • non-accumulator plants
  • methionine s-methyltransferase
  • cystathionine-gamma-synthase
  • affinity sulfate transporter
  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • Indian mustard
  • serine acetyltransferase
  • volatile selenium
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae


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