Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Plant Biology

First Advisor

Elsbeth L. Walker

Second Advisor

Danny J. Schnell

Third Advisor

Wei-Lih Lee

Subject Categories

Plant Sciences


Iron is one of the most important micronutrients used by living organisms. Iron is frequently a limiting nutrient for plant growth, and plants are a major source of iron for human nutrition. The most prominent symptom of iron deficiency in plants is interveinal chlorosis, or yellowing between the veins, which appears first in the youngest leaves. Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is the number one human nutritional deficiency worldwide. In order to solve the problem of iron deficiency, it is desirable to breed plants that have increased iron in those parts that are consumed by humans. To do this, we must first understand the molecular basis of Fe uptake, transport, and storage in plants. In soil, iron is quickly oxidized to Fe(III), and Fe(III) is relatively insoluble, thus difficult for plants to obtain. Our lab has been working on metal ion homeostasis mechanisms in plants and the ultimate goal of our research is to understand the mechanisms by which plants maintain the correct levels of iron, zinc and copper in each cell and tissue. The Yellow Stripe-like (YSL) family of proteins has been identified based on sequence similarity to maize Yellow stripe 1 (YS1). YS1 transports Fe(III) that is complexed by phytosiderophores (PS), strong Fe(III) chelators of the mugineic acid family of compounds. Non-grass species of plants neither make nor use PS, yet YSL family members are found in non-grass species including Arabidopsis thaliana. YSLs in non-grasses have been hypothesized to transport metals that are complexed by nicotianamine (NA), an iron chelator that is structurally similar to PS and which is found in all higher plants. In this dissertation, Arabidopsis YSL1 and YSL3 are demonstrated to be important in iron transport and also responsible for loading Fe, Cu, and Zn from leaves into seeds. Arabidopsis YSL4 and YSL6 are demonstrated to be involved in iron transport and metal mobilization into seeds. The transport function of Arabidopsis YSL1 and YSL2 are shown be partially overlapping to the function of Arabidopsis YSL3 in vegetative structures, but distinct in reproductive organs. Arabidopsis YSL3 and YSL6 are shown to have distinct functions in planta.