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© 2015 German Botanical Society and The Royal Botanical Society of the Netherlands. Anthropogenic activities have resulted in cyanide (CN) contamination of both soil and water in many areas of the globe. While plants possess a detoxification pathway that serves to degrade endogenously generated CN, this system is readily overwhelmed, limiting the use of plants in bioremediation. Genetic engineering of additional CN degradation pathways in plants is one potential strategy to increase their tolerance to CN. Here we show that heterologous expression of microbial nitrilase enzymes targeted to the mitochondria increases CN tolerance in Arabidopsis. Root length in seedlings expressing either a CN dihydratase from Bacillus pumilis or a CN hydratase from Neurospora crassa was increased by 45% relative in wild-type plants in the presence of 50 μm KCN. We also demonstrate that in contrast to its strong inhibitory effects on seedling establishment, seed germination of the Col-0 ecotype of Arabidopsis is unaffected by CN.

Original publication




Journal article


Plant Biology

Publication Date





922 - 926