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New Phytol. 2012 May;194(3):732-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2012.04084.x. Epub 2012 Mar 9.

Autophagy machinery controls nitrogen remobilization at the whole-plant level under both limiting and ample nitrate conditions in Arabidopsis.

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INRA, UMR1318, Institut Jean-Pierre Bourgin, Versailles, France.


• Processes allowing the recycling of organic nitrogen and export to young leaves and seeds are important determinants of plant yield, especially when plants are nitrate-limited. Because autophagy is induced during leaf ageing and in response to nitrogen starvation, its role in nitrogen remobilization was suspected. It was recently shown that autophagy participates in the trafficking of Rubisco-containing bodies to the vacuole. • To investigate the role of autophagy in nitrogen remobilization, several autophagy-defective (atg) Arabidopsis mutants were grown under low and high nitrate supplies and labeled with at the vegetative stage in order to determine (15) N partitioning in seeds at harvest. Because atg mutants displayed earlier and more rapid leaf senescence than wild type, we investigated whether their defects in nitrogen remobilization were related to premature leaf cell death by studying the stay-green atg5.sid2 and atg5.NahG mutants. • Results showed that nitrogen remobilization efficiency was significantly lower in all the atg mutants irrespective of biomass defects, harvest index reduction, leaf senescence phenotypes and nitrogen conditions. • We conclude that autophagy core machinery is needed for nitrogen remobilization and seed filling.

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