Journal of experimental botany

Higher sterol content regulated by CYP51 with concomitant lower phospholipid content in membranes is a common strategy for aluminium tolerance in several plant species.

PMID 25416794


Several studies have shown that differences in lipid composition and in the lipid biosynthetic pathway affect the aluminium (Al) tolerance of plants, but little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying these differences. Phospholipids create a negative charge at the surface of the plasma membrane and enhance Al sensitivity as a result of the accumulation of positively charged Al(3+) ions. The phospholipids will be balanced by other electrically neutral lipids, such as sterols. In the present research, Al tolerance was compared among pea (Pisum sativum) genotypes. Compared with Al-tolerant genotypes, the Al-sensitive genotype accumulated more Al in the root tip, had a less intact plasma membrane, and showed a lower expression level of PsCYP51, which encodes obtusifoliol-14α-demethylase (OBT 14DM), a key sterol biosynthetic enzyme. The ratio of phospholipids to sterols was higher in the sensitive genotype than in the tolerant genotypes, suggesting that the sterol biosynthetic pathway plays an important role in Al tolerance. Consistent with this idea, a transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana line with knocked-down AtCYP51 expression showed an Al-sensitive phenotype. Uniconazole-P, an inhibitor of OBT 14DM, suppressed the Al tolerance of Al-tolerant genotypes of maize (Zea mays), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), rice (Oryza sativa), wheat (Triticum aestivum), and triticale (×Triticosecale Wittmark cv. Currency). These results suggest that increased sterol content, regulated by CYP51, with concomitant lower phospholipid content in the root tip, results in lower negativity of the plasma membrane. This appears to be a common strategy for Al tolerance among several plant species.

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