Hyperaccumulators are distinguished from non-hyperaccumulators on the basis of their capacity to extract heavy metal ions from the soil, their more efficient root-to-shoot translocation of these ions and their greater ability to detoxify and sequester heavy metals in the shoot. The understanding of the mechanisms underlying metal ion accumulation has progressed beyond the relevant biochemistry and physiology to encompass the genetic and molecular regulatory systems which differentiate hyperaccumulators from non-hyperaccumulators. This paper reviews the literature surrounding the application of proteomics technology to plant metal hyperaccumulation, in particular involving the elements As, Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn. The hyperaccumulation process across a number of unrelated plant species appears to be associatedwith proteins involved in energy metabolism, the oxidative stress response and abiotic and biotic stress. The relevance of transducers of the metal stress response to the phenomenon of hyperaccumulation is summarized. Proteomic data complement the more voluminous genomic and transcriptomic data sets in providing a more nuanced picture of the process, and should therefore help in the identification of the major genetic determinants of the hyperaccumulation phenomenon.
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