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J Exp Bot. 2007;58(9):2359-67. Epub 2007 Apr 29.

Insights into the genomic nitrate response using genetics and the Sungear Software System.

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  • 1Department of Biology, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA.


Nitrate is both a nutrient and a potent signal that stimulates plant growth. Initial experiments in the late 1950s showing that nitrate enhances nitrate reductase (NR) activity after several hours of treatment have now progressed to transcriptome studies identifying over 1000 genes that respond to muM levels of nitrate within minutes. The use of an Arabidopsis NR-null mutant allowed the identification of genes that respond to nitrate when the production of downstream metabolites of nitrate is blocked. Further dissection of the nitrate response is now possible using new bioinformatic tools such as Sungear to perform comparative studies of multiple transcriptome responses across different laboratories and environmental conditions. These analyses have identified genes and pathways (e.g. nitrate assimilation, pentose phosphate pathway, and glycolysis) that respond to nitrate under a variety of conditions (context-independent). Most of these genes and pathways are ones that were identified using the NR-null mutant as responding directly to nitrate. By contrast, other processes such as protein synthesis respond only under a subset of conditions (context-dependent). Data from the NR-null mutant suggest these latter processes may be regulated by downstream nitrogen metabolites.

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