Sulfur (S) is essential for the synthesis of important defense compounds and in the scavenging potential of oxidative stress, conferring increased capacity to cope with biotic and abiotic stresses. Chromate can induce a sort of S-starvation by competing for uptake with SO42− and causing a depletion of cellular reduced compounds, thus emphasizing the role of S-transporters in heavy-metal tolerance. In this work we analyzed the sulfate transporter system in the freshwater green algae Scenedesmus acutus, that proved to possess both H+/SO42− (SULTRs) and Na+/SO42− (SLTs) plasma membrane sulfate transporters and a chloroplast-envelope localized ABC-type holocomplex. We discuss the sulfate uptake system of S. acutus in comparison with other taxa, enlightening differences among the clade Sphaeropleales and Volvocales/Chlamydomonadales. To define the role of S transporters in chromium tolerance, we analyzed the expression of SULTRs and SULPs components of the chloroplast ABC transporter in two strains of S. acutus with different Cr(VI) sensitivity. Their differential expression in response to Cr(VI) exposure and S availability seems directly linked to Cr(VI) tolerance, confirming the role of sulfate uptake/assimilation pathways in the metal stress response. The SULTRs up-regulation, observed in both strains after S-starvation, may directly contribute to enhancing Cr-tolerance by limiting Cr(VI) uptake and increasing sulfur availability for the synthesis of sulfur-containing defense molecules
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