Root efflux of organic acid anions underlies a major mechanism of plant aluminium (Al) tolerance on acid soils. This efflux is mediated by transporters of the Al-activated malate transporter (ALMT) or the multi-drug and toxin extrusion (MATE) families. ZmALMT2 was previously suggested to be involved in Al tolerance based on joint association-linkage mapping for maize Al tolerance. In the current study, we functionally characterized ZmALMT2 by heterologously expressing it in Xenopus laevis oocytes and transgenic Arabidopsis. In oocytes, ZmALMT2 mediated an Al-independent electrogenic transport product of organic and inorganic anion efflux. Ectopic overexpression of ZmALMT2 in an Al-hypersensitive Arabidopsis KO/KD line lacking the Al tolerance genes, AtALMT1 and AtMATE, resulted in Al-independent constitutive root malate efflux which partially restored the Al tolerance phenotype. The lack of correlation between ZmALMT2 expression and Al tolerance (e.g., expression not localized to the root tip, not up-regulated by Al, and higher in sensitive versus tolerance maize lines) also led us to question ZmALMT2's role in Al tolerance. The functional properties of the ZmALMT2 transporter presented here, along with the gene expression data, suggest that ZmALMT2 is not involved in maize Al tolerance but, rather, may play a role in mineral nutrient acquisition and transport.
Ligaba, A.; Maron, L.G.; Shaff, J.E.; Kochian, L.V.; Piñeros, M.A. Maize ZmALMT2 is a root anion transporter that mediates constitutive root malate efflux. Plant, Cell and Environment (2012) 35 (7) 1185-1200. [DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3040.2011.02479.x]