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Journal of experimental botany

Adaptation of Arabidopsis to nitrogen limitation involves induction of anthocyanin synthesis which is controlled by the NLA gene.


PMID 18552353

Abstract

Plants can survive a limiting nitrogen (N) supply by developing a set of N limitation adaptive responses. However, the Arabidopsis nla (nitrogen limitation adaptation) mutant fails to produce such responses, and cannot adapt to N limitation. In this study, the nla mutant was utilized to understand further the effect of NLA on Arabidopsis adaptation to N limitation. Grown with limiting N, the nla mutant could not accumulate anthocyanins and instead produced an N limitation-induced early senescence phenotype. In contrast, when supplied with limiting N and limiting phosphorus (Pi), the nla mutants accumulated abundant anthocyanins and did not show the N limitation-induced early senescence phenotype. These results support the hypothesis that Arabidopsis has a specific pathway to control N limitation-induced anthocyanin synthesis, and the nla mutation disrupts this pathway. However, the nla mutation does not affect the Pi limitation-induced anthocyanin synthesis pathway. Therefore, Pi limitation induced the nla mutant to accumulate anthocyanins under N limitation and allowed this mutant to adapt to N limitation. Under N limitation, the nla mutant had a significantly down-regulated expression of many genes functioning in anthocyanin synthesis, and an enhanced expression of genes involved in lignin production. Correspondingly, the nla mutant grown with limiting N showed a significantly lower production of anthocyanins (particularly cyanidins) and an increase in lignin contents compared with wild-type plants. These data suggest that NLA controls Arabidopsis adaptability to N limitation by channelling the phenylpropanoid metabolic flux to the induced anthocyanin synthesis, which is important for Arabidopsis to adapt to N limitation.

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