Nitrogen (N) is fundamental to plant growth, development, and yield. Genes underlying N utilization and assimilation are well characterized, but mechanisms underpinning plasticity of different phenotypes to varying amounts of N in the soil remain elusive. Here, using Arabidopsis thaliana accessions, we dissected the genetic architecture of plasticity in early and late rosette diameter, flowering time and yield in response to three levels of N in soil. Genome-wide association analysis identified three significant associations for phenotypic plasticity, one for early rosette diameter and two for flowering time. We confirmed that the gene At1g19880, hereafter named as PLASTICITY OF ROSETTE TO NITROGEN 1 (PROTON1), encoding for a regulator of chromatin condensation 1 (RCC1) family protein, conferred plasticity of rosette diameter in response to changes in N availability. The altered plasticities were a result of faster development under limiting N, and correlated with the plasticity in the levels of primary metabolites. By using different growth conditions for a subset of accessions, we showed that plasticities of growth and flowering-related traits in response to N availability differed between the environmental cues, indicating decoupled genetic programs regulating these traits. Our findings provide a prospective for identification of genes that stabilize performance under fluctuating environments.
The understanding of the dynamics of stomatal movements has increased substantially through genetic manipulation of plant metabolism either at the whole plant level or specifically in guard cells. However, the regulation of stomatal speediness remains not completely elucidated. Here we shown that reduced expression of guard cell sucrose synthase 2 (NtSUS2) of Nicotiana tabacum L. altered the topology and the connectivity of the guard cell metabolic network and the accumulation of metabolites positively correlated with stomatal speediness during dark-to-light transition. This leads to a slower light-induced stomatal opening, lower steady-state stomatal conductance and a strong reduction (up to 44%) in daily whole plant transpiration in the transgenics, when compared to wild type plants. Furthermore, the transgenic lines transpired more or have lower reduction in whole plant transpiration under short water deficit periods, indicating a higher effective use of water under this condition. Our results collectively suggest that the regulation of stomatal movement and speediness involve a complex modulation of the guard cell metabolic network, in which NtSUS2 has an important role. The results are discussed on the role of guard cell metabolism for the regulation of both stomatal speediness and whole plant transpiration.
Utilizing phosphate more efficiently is crucial for sustainable crop production. Highly efficient rice (Oryza sativa) cultivars have been identified and this study aims to identify metabolic markers associated with P utilization efficiency. P deficiency generally reduced leaf P concentrations and CO2 assimilation rates but efficient cultivars were reducing leaf P concentrations further than inefficient ones while maintaining similar CO2 assimilation rates. Adaptive changes in carbon metabolism were detected but equally in efficient and inefficient cultivar groups. Groups furthermore did not differ with respect to partial substitutions of phospholipids by sulfo- and galactolipids. Metabolites significantly more abundant in the efficient group, such as sinapate, benzoate and glucoronate, were related to antioxidant defense and may help alleviating oxidative stress caused by P deficiency. Sugar alcohols ribitol and threitol were another marker metabolite for higher phosphate efficiency as were several amino acids, especially threonine. Since these metabolites are not known to be associated with P deficiency, they may provide novel clues for the selection of more P efficient genotypes. In conclusion, metabolite signatures detected here were not related to phosphate metabolism but rather helped P efficient lines to keep vital processes functional under the adverse conditions of P starvation.