Magnesium (Mg) is an essential nutrient that can alleviate soilborne toxicity of many ions. This review paper critically assesses the literature on interactions and mechanisms influencing Mg alleviation of aluminium (Al) and heavy metal toxicity. Hydrated radii of Mg2 and Al3 are similar; therefore, these two ions compete for binding to ion transporters and other important biological molecules. In monocotyledonous species such as rice and wheat, millimolar concentrations of Mg alleviate Al toxicity, mainly by decreasing Al saturation and activity at cell wall and plasma membrane binding sites. In dicotyledonous legume species such as soybean (Glycine max), rice bean (Vigna umbellata) and broad bean (Vicia faba), micromolar concentrations of Mg may enhance biosynthesis of organic ligands and thus underpin alleviation of Al toxicity. Resistance to Al may be enhanced by increased expression of the genes coding for Mg transporters, as well as by upregulation of activity of Mg-transport proteins; intracellular Mg2 activity may thus be increased under Al stress, which may increase the activity of H -ATPases. In Vicia faba, Mg-related enhancement in the activity of plasma membrane H -ATPase under Al stress was found to be due to post-translational modification (increased phosphorylation of the penultimate threonine as well as association with regulatory 14-3-3 proteins), resulting in increased resistance to Al stress. Magnesium can alleviate heavy metal stress by decreasing negative electrical potential and thus metal ion activities at the plasma membrane surface (physico-chemical competition), by enhancing activities of enzymes involved in biosynthesis of organic ligands, and by increasing vacuolar sequestration of heavy metals via increasing H -pumping activity at the tonoplast. Future work should concentrate on characterising the role of intracellular Mg2 homeostasis and Mg transporters in alleviating metal stress as well as in transcriptional, translational and post-translational regulation of H -pumps and enzymes involved in biosynthesis and exudation of organic ligands.
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Vol. 66 • No. 12