Many plant species avoid the phytotoxic effects of aluminum (Al) by exuding dicarboxylic and tricarboxylic acids that chelate and immobilize Al3+ at the root surface, thus preventing it from entering root cells. Several novel genes that encode membrane transporters from the ALMT and MATE families recently were cloned and implicated in mediating the organic acid transport underlying this Al tolerance response. Given our limited understanding of the functional properties of ALMTs, in this study a detailed characterization of the transport properties of TaALMT1 (formerly named ALMT1) from wheat (Triticum aestivum) expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes was conducted. The electrophysiological findings are as follows. Although the activity of TaALMT1 is highly dependent on the presence of extracellular Al3+ (Km1/2 of approximately 5 µM Al3+ activity), TaALMT1 is functionally active and can mediate ion transport in the absence of extracellular Al3+. The lack of change in the reversal potential (Erev) upon exposure to Al3+ suggests that the \"enhancement\" of TaALMT1 malate transport by Al is not due to alteration in the transporter's selectivity properties but is solely due to increases in its anion permeability. The consistent shift in the direction of the Erev as the intracellular malate activity increases indicates that TaALMT1 is selective for the transport of malate over other anions. The estimated permeability ratio between malate and chloride varied between 1 and 30. However, the complex behavior of the Erev as the extracellular Cl- activity was varied indicates that this estimate can only be used as a general guide to understanding the relative affinity of TaALMT1 for malate, representing only an approximation of those expected under physiologically relevant ionic conditions. TaALMT1 can also mediate a large anion influx (i.e. outward currents). TaALMT1 is permeable not only to malate but also to other physiologically relevant anions such as Cl-, NO3-, and SO42- (to a lesser degree).
Plant Physiology (2008) 147: 2131-2146 [doi: 10.1104/pp.108.119636]