Cadmium (Cd) is a widespread, naturally occurring element present in soil, rock, water, plants and animals. Cd is a non-essential element for plants and is toxic at higher concentrations. Transcript profiles of roots of Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) and Thlaspi caerulescens plants exposed to Cd and zinc (Zn) are examined, with the main aim to determine the differences in gene expression between the Cd-tolerant Zn-hyperaccumulator T. caerulescens and the Cd-sensitive non-accumulator Arabidopsis. This comparative transcriptional analysis emphasized the role of genes involved in lignin, glutathione and sulphate metabolism. Furthermore the transcription factors MYB72 and bHLH100 were studied for their involvement in metal homeostasis, as they showed an altered expression after exposure to Cd. The Arabidopsis myb72 knockout mutant was more sensitive to excess Zn or iron (Fe) deficiency than wild type, while Arabidopsis transformants overexpressing bHLH100 showed increased tolerance to high Zn and nickel (Ni) compared to wild-type plants, confirming their role in metal homeostasis in Arabidopsis. © 2008 The Authors.