Document Type


Publication Date



© 2016 American Society of Plant Biologists. All rights reserved. A crucial prerequisite for plant growth and survival is the maintenance of potassium uptake, especially when high sodium surrounds the root zone. The Arabidopsis HIGH-AFFINITY K+ TRANSPORTER1 (HKT1), and its homologs in other salt-sensitive dicots, contributes to salinity tolerance by removing Na+ from the transpiration stream. However, TsHKT1;2, one of three HKT1 copies in Thellungiella salsuginea, a halophytic Arabidopsis relative, acts as a K+transporter in the presence of Na+ in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Amino-acid sequence comparisons indicated differences between TsHKT1;2 and most other published HKT1 sequences with respect to an Asp residue (D207) in the second pore-loop domain. Two additional T. salsuginea and most other HKT1 sequences contain Asn (N) in this position. Wild-type TsHKT1;2 and altered AtHKT1 (AtHKT1N-D) complemented K+-uptake deficiency of yeast cells. Mutanthkt1-1 plants complemented with both AtHKT1N-D and TsHKT1;2 showed higher tolerance to salt stress than lines complemented by the wild-type AtHKT1. Electrophysiological analysis in Xenopus laevis oocytes confirmed the functional properties of these transporters and the differential selectivity for Na+ and K+based on the N/D variance in the pore region. This change also dictated inward-rectification for Na+ transport. Thus, the introduction of Asp, replacing Asn, in HKT1-type transporters established altered cation selectivity and uptake dynamics. We describe one way, based on a single change in a crucial protein that enabled some crucifer species to acquire improved salt tolerance, which over evolutionary time may have resulted in further changes that ultimately facilitated colonization of saline habitats.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Plant Physiology

First Page


Last Page