PerspectivePlant Biochemistry

Lighting the fuse on toxic TNT

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Science  04 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6252, pp. 1052-1053
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0941

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Most of the oxygen used by aerobic cells is safely converted to water, but a small part can be transformed into unstable derivatives called reactive oxygen species (ROS). Although dangerous to life, ROS are also important signaling messengers that provide information on the cellular environment. They are implicated in human diseases and in plant development and environmental responses. Cells can live with ROS and exploit them as signals because they use antioxidant systems to regulate their accumulation and so avoid the oxidative stress they can cause. Plant antioxidant networks are complex, and there is keen interest in dissecting the biological roles of the many enzymes and metabolites that may be involved. On page 1072 of this issue, Johnston et al. report a role for a specific member of the antioxidant enzyme family in conferring sensitivity to soil-borne pollutants, including the explosive 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), on the model plant Arabidopsis (1).