Plant development and fitness largely depend on the adequate availability of mineral elements in the soil. Most essential nutrients are available and can be membrane transported either as mono or divalent cations or as mono- or divalent anions. Trivalent cations are highly toxic to membranes, and plants have evolved different mechanisms to handle +3 elements in a safe way. The essential functional role of a few metal ions, with the possibility to gain a trivalent state, mainly resides in the ion’s redox activity; examples are iron (Fe) and manganese. Among the required nutrients, the only element with +3 as a unique oxidation state is the non-metal, boron. However, plants also can take up non-essential trivalent elements that occur in biologically relevant concentrations in soils. Examples are, among others, aluminum (Al), chromium (Cr), arsenic (As), and antimony (Sb). Plants have evolved different mechanisms to take up and tolerate these potentially toxic elements. This review considers recent studies describing the transporters, and specific and unspecific channels in different cell compartments and tissues, thereby providing a global vision of trivalent element homeostasis in plants.
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