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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jan 15;105(2):803-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0709559105. Epub 2008 Jan 7.

Cell-specific nitrogen responses mediate developmental plasticity.

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Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, New York University, 100 Washington Square East, New York, NY 10003, USA.


The organs of multicellular species consist of cell types that must function together to perform specific tasks. One critical organ function is responding to internal or external change. Some cell-specific responses to changes in environmental conditions are known, but the scale of cell-specific responses within an entire organ as it perceives an environmental flux has not been well characterized in plants or any other multicellular organism. Here, we use cellular profiling of five Arabidopsis root cell types in response to an influx of a critical resource, nitrogen, to uncover a vast and predominantly cell-specific response. We show that cell-specific profiling increases sensitivity several-fold, revealing highly localized regulation of transcripts that were largely hidden from previous global analyses. The cell-specific data revealed responses that suggested a coordinated developmental response in distinct cell types or tissues. One example is the cell-specific regulation of a transcriptional circuit that we showed mediates lateral root outgrowth in response to nitrogen via microRNA167, linking small RNAs to nitrogen responses. Together, these results reveal a previously cryptic component of cell-specific responses to nitrogen. Thus, the results make an important advance in our understanding of how multicellular organisms cope with environmental change at the cell level.

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