Systems Biology for Enhanced Plant Nitrogen Nutrition

FONDAP Center for Genome Regulation, Millennium Nucleus Center for Plant Functional Genomics, Departamento de Genética Molecular y Microbiología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Avenida Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins 340, Santiago, Chile.
Science (Impact Factor: 31.48). 06/2012; 336(6089):1673-5. DOI: 10.1126/science.1217620
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Nitrogen (N)-based fertilizers increase agricultural productivity but have detrimental effects on the environment and human health. Research is generating improved understanding of the signaling components plants use to sense N and regulate metabolism, physiology, and growth and development. However, we still need to integrate these regulatory factors into signal transduction pathways and connect them to downstream response pathways. Systems biology approaches facilitate identification of new components and N-regulatory networks linked to other plant processes. A holistic view of plant N nutrition should open avenues to translate this knowledge into effective strategies to improve N-use efficiency and enhance crop production systems for more sustainable agricultural practices.

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    ABSTRACT: In Arabidopsis the plasma membrane nitrate transceptor (transporter/receptor) NRT1.1 governs many physiological and developmental responses to nitrate. Alongside facilitating nitrate uptake, NRT1.1 regulates the expression levels of many nitrate assimilation pathway genes, modulates root system architecture, relieves seed dormancy and protects plants from ammonium toxicity. Here, we assess the functional and phenotypic consequences of point mutations in two key residues of NRT1.1 (P492 and T101). We show that the point mutations differentially affect several of the NRT1.1-dependent responses to nitrate, namely the repression of lateral root development at low nitrate concentrations, and the short-term upregulation of the nitrate-uptake gene NRT2.1, and its longer-term downregulation, at high nitrate concentrations. We also show that these mutations have differential effects on genome-wide gene expression. Our findings indicate that NRT1.1 activates four separate signalling mechanisms, which have independent structural bases in the protein. In particular, we present evidence to suggest that the phosphorylated and non-phosphorylated forms of NRT1.1 at T101 have distinct signalling functions, and that the nitrate-dependent regulation of root development depends on the phosphorylated form. Our findings add to the evidence that NRT1.1 is able to trigger independent signalling pathways in Arabidopsis in response to different environmental conditions.

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