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Plant Cell Physiol. 2008 Jan;49(1):92-102. Epub 2007 Dec 11.

Contribution of the GABA shunt to hypoxia-induced alanine accumulation in roots of Arabidopsis thaliana.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2E9, Canada.


When subjected to low oxygen stress, plants accumulate alanine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). To investigate the function of GABA metabolism under hypoxia and its contribution to alanine accumulation, we studied the genes that encode the two key enzymes of the GABA shunt, glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) and GABA transaminase (GABA-T). Among the five homologous GAD genes found in Arabidopsis thaliana, GAD1 expression was predominantly found in roots, while GAD2 expression was evident in all organs. Expression of the other three GAD genes was generally weak. In response to hypoxia, transcriptional induction was observed for GAD4 only. For GABA-T1, its expression was detected in all organs, but there was no significant transcriptional change under hypoxic conditions. Moreover, we have isolated and characterized Arabidopsis mutants defective in GAD1 and GABA-T1. In gad1 mutants, GAD activity was significantly reduced in roots but was not affected in shoots. In the gaba-t1 mutant, GABA-T activity was decreased to negligible levels in both shoots and roots. These mutants were phenotypically normal under normal growth conditions except for the reduced seed production of the pop2 mutants as described previously. However, metabolite analysis revealed significant changes in GABA content in gad1 and gaba-t1 mutants. The levels of alanine under hypoxic conditions were also affected in the roots of gad1 and gaba-t1 mutants. The partial inhibition of the hypoxia-induced alanine accumulation in roots of these mutants suggests that the GABA shunt is, in part, responsible for the alanine accumulation under hypoxia.

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