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Plant Cell Environ. 2017 Jan;40(1):95-107. doi: 10.1111/pce.12842. Epub 2016 Nov 28.

System analysis of metabolism and the transcriptome in Arabidopsis thaliana roots reveals differential co-regulation upon iron, sulfur and potassium deficiency.

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Centre for Organismal Studies (COS), University of Heidelberg, 69120, Heidelberg, Germany.
Center for Medical Research, University of Mannheim, 68167, Mannheim, Germany.
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, 07745, Jena, Germany.
Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, AL5 2JQ, UK.
Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural Resources, Animals and Environment, University of Padova, Padua, Italy.


Deprivation of mineral nutrients causes significant retardation of plant growth. This retardation is associated with nutrient-specific and general stress-induced transcriptional responses. In this study, we adjusted the external supply of iron, potassium and sulfur to cause the same retardation of shoot growth. Nevertheless, limitation by individual nutrients resulted in specific morphological adaptations and distinct shifts within the root metabolite fingerprint. The metabolic shifts affected key metabolites of primary metabolism and the stress-related phytohormones, jasmonic, salicylic and abscisic acid. These phytohormone signatures contributed to specific nutrient deficiency-induced transcriptional regulation. Limitation by the micronutrient iron caused the strongest regulation and affected 18% of the root transcriptome. Only 130 genes were regulated by all nutrients. Specific co-regulation between the iron and sulfur metabolic routes upon iron or sulfur deficiency was observed. Interestingly, iron deficiency caused regulation of a different set of genes of the sulfur assimilation pathway compared with sulfur deficiency itself, which demonstrates the presence of specific signal-transduction systems for the cross-regulation of the pathways. Combined iron and sulfur starvation experiments demonstrated that a requirement for a specific nutrient can overrule this cross-regulation. The comparative metabolomics and transcriptomics approach used dissected general stress from nutrient-specific regulation in roots of Arabidopsis.

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