Development of Bio-Based Molecular Technologies for Removal and Real-Time Monitoring of Toxic Metals

EPA Grant Number: F07D10079
Title: Development of Bio-Based Molecular Technologies for Removal and Real-Time Monitoring of Toxic Metals
Investigators: Adams, Joshua P.
Institution: Mississippi State University - Main Campus
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: August 1, 2007 through July 31, 2010
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Forestry , Hazardous Waste/Remediation


Environmental pollutants pose health risks such as cancer. The overall goal is to develop an understanding of how trees interact with their environment at the molecular level and use this knowledge to develop bio-based molecular technologies to solve pollution problems. To accomplish the overall goal, the specific objectives are to: 1] Develop a tree with zinc hyper-accumulation ability through gene transfer from Thlaspi caerulescens to poplar for use in bioremediation; and 2] Harness fluorescent energy transfer to provide a tree that monitors metal contamination in soil/water.


Development of a high-biomass, zinc hyper-accumulator will involve genetic engineering. Genes involved in metal transport and detoxification from the metal hyper-accumulating T. caerulescens will be identified and inserted into poplar. Engineered trees will be grown in the presence of various zinc concentrations, harvested, and measured for zinc abundance. Development of a tree with metal monitoring capabilities will require fusion of fluorescent proteins to proteins involved in metal uptake and transport. This will involve vector construction, sequencing, gene transformation, and metal assays in poplar. Poplar is used because it is a high-biomass species whose genome has been sequenced and gene transformation procedures have been well-established.

Expected Results:

Transformation of heavy-metal related genes from a hyper-accumulator to a high-biomass species is expected to promote a zinc hyper-accumulating phenotype in the normally non-hyper-accumulating poplar. Coupling fluorescence with heavy metal proteins is anticipated to allow monitoring of metal influx in the tree via light emissions. Consequently, this project is expected to provide high-biomass species with an accumulation and monitoring phenotype which is pursuant to a goal of ensuring plant, animal, and human safety.

Supplemental Keywords:

Pollution, heavy metal, zinc accumulation, bioremediation, Thlaspi caerulescens, Populus, poplar, environmental remediation,, Scientific Discipline

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2008
  • 2009
  • Final