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Changes in gene expression in Arabidopsis shoots during phosphate starvation and the potential for developing smart plants

Hammond, J. P. ORCID:, Bennett, M. J., Bowen, H. C., Broadley, M. R., Eastwood, D. C., May, S. T., Rahn, C., Swarup, R., Woolaway, K. E. and White, P. J. (2003) Changes in gene expression in Arabidopsis shoots during phosphate starvation and the potential for developing smart plants. Plant Physiology, 132 (2). pp. 578-596. ISSN 0032-0889

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1104/pp.103.020941


Our aim was to generate and prove the concept of "smart" plants to monitor plant phosphorus (P) status in Arabidopsis. Smart plants can be genetically engineered by transformation with a construct containing the promoter of a gene up-regulated specifically by P starvation in an accessible tissue upstream of a marker gene such as beta-glucuronidase (GUS). First, using microarrays, we identified genes whose expression changed more than 2.5-fold in shoots of plants growing hydroponically when P, but not N or K, was withheld from the nutrient solution. The transient changes in gene expression occurring immediately (4 h) after P withdrawal were highly variable, and many nonspecific, shock-induced genes were up-regulated during this period. However, two common putative cis-regulatory elements (a PHO-like element and a TATA box-like element) were present significantly more often in the promoters of genes whose expression increased 4 h after the withdrawal of P compared with their general occurrence in the promoters of all genes represented on the microarray. Surprisingly, the expression of only four genes differed between shoots of P-starved and -replete plants 28 h after P was withdrawn. This lull in differential gene expression preceded the differential expression of a new group of 61 genes 100 h after withdrawing P. A literature survey indicated that the expression of many of these "late" genes responded specifically to P starvation. Shoots had reduced P after 100 h, but growth was unaffected. The expression of SQD1, a gene involved in the synthesis of sulfolipids, responded specifically to P starvation and was increased 100 h after withdrawing P. Leaves of Arabidopsis bearing a SQD1::GUS construct showed increased GUS activity after P withdrawal, which was detectable before P starvation limited growth. Hence, smart plants can monitor plant P status. Transferring this technology to crops would allow precision management of P fertilization, thereby maintaining yields while reducing costs, conserving natural resources, and preventing pollution.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Department of Bio-Engineering
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Food Security
Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Crop Science
ID Code:33857
Uncontrolled Keywords:arabidopsis gene expression transcriptomics microarray affymetrix phosphate phosphorus shoot leaf smart plant
Publisher:American Society of Plant Biologists

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