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Plant Physiol. 2002 Mar;128(3):1137-48.

Limits to sulfur accumulation in transgenic lupin seeds expressing a foreign sulfur-rich protein.

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Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Plant Industry, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.


The low sulfur amino acid content of legume seeds restricts their nutritive value for animals. We have investigated the limitations to the accumulation of sulfur amino acids in the storage proteins of narrow leaf lupin (Lupinus angustifolius) seeds. Variation in sulfur supply to lupin plants affected the sulfur amino acid accumulation in the mature seed. However, when sulfur was in abundant supply, it accumulated to a large extent in oxidized form, rather than reduced form, in the seeds. At all but severely limiting sulfur supply, addition of a transgenic (Tg) sink for organic sulfur resulted in an increase in seed sulfur amino acid content. We hypothesize that demand, or sink strength for organic sulfur, which is itself responsive to environmental sulfur supply, was the first limit to the methionine (Met) and cysteine (Cys) content of wild-type lupin seed protein under most growing conditions. In Tg, soil-grown seeds expressing a foreign Met- and Cys-rich protein, decreased pools of free Met, free Cys, and glutathione indicated that the rate of synthesis of sulfur amino acids in the cotyledon had become limiting. Homeostatic mechanisms similar to those mediating the responses of plants to environmental sulfur stress resulted in an adjustment of endogenous protein composition in Tg seeds, even when grown at adequate sulfur supply. Uptake of sulfur by lupin cotyledons, as indicated by total seed sulfur at maturity, responded positively to increased sulfur supply, but not to increased demand in the Tg seeds.

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