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1.  Knocking down mitochondrial iron transporter (MIT) reprograms primary and secondary metabolism in rice plants 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2015;67(5):1357-1368.
Knocking down mitochondrial iron transporter decreases respiratory chain activity in mit-2 rice mutants, accompanied by comprehensive changes in the transcriptome and metabolome, with these responses being differentially regulated in roots and shoots.
Iron (Fe) is an essential micronutrient for plant growth and development, and its reduced bioavailability strongly impairs mitochondrial functionality. In this work, the metabolic adjustment in the rice (Oryza sativa) mitochondrial Fe transporter knockdown mutant (mit-2) was analysed. Biochemical characterization of purified mitochondria from rice roots showed alteration in the respiratory chain of mit-2 compared with wild-type (WT) plants. In particular, proteins belonging to the type II alternative NAD(P)H dehydrogenases accumulated strongly in mit-2 plants, indicating that alternative pathways were activated to keep the respiratory chain working. Additionally, large-scale changes in the transcriptome and metabolome were observed in mit-2 rice plants. In particular, a strong alteration (up-/down-regulation) in the expression of genes encoding enzymes of both primary and secondary metabolism was found in mutant plants. This was reflected by changes in the metabolic profiles in both roots and shoots of mit-2 plants. Significant alterations in the levels of amino acids belonging to the aspartic acid-related pathways (aspartic acid, lysine, and threonine in roots, and aspartic acid and ornithine in shoots) were found that are strictly connected to the Krebs cycle. Furthermore, some metabolites (e.g. pyruvic acid, fumaric acid, ornithine, and oligosaccharides of the raffinose family) accumulated only in the shoot of mit-2 plants, indicating possible hypoxic responses. These findings suggest that the induction of local Fe deficiency in the mitochondrial compartment of mit-2 plants differentially affects the transcript as well as the metabolic profiles in root and shoot tissues.
PMCID: PMC4762380  PMID: 26685186
Iron; iron deficiency; metabolomics; mitochondria; Oryza sativa; transcriptomics
2.  Three-Dimensional Reconstruction, by TEM Tomography, of the Ultrastructural Modifications Occurring in Cucumis sativus L. Mitochondria under Fe Deficiency 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(6):e0129141.
Mitochondria, as recently suggested, might be involved in iron sensing and signalling pathways in plant cells. For a better understanding of the role of these organelles in mediating the Fe deficiency responses in plant cells, it is crucial to provide a full overview of their modifications occurring under Fe-limited conditions. The aim of this work is to characterize the ultrastructural as well as the biochemical changes occurring in leaf mitochondria of cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) plants grown under Fe deficiency.
Mitochondrial ultrastructure was investigated by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and electron tomography techniques, which allowed a three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction of cellular structures. These analyses reveal that mitochondria isolated from cucumber leaves appear in the cristae junction model conformation and that Fe deficiency strongly alters both the number and the volume of cristae. The ultrastructural changes observed in mitochondria isolated from Fe-deficient leaves reflect a metabolic status characterized by a respiratory chain operating at a lower rate (orthodox-like conformation) with respect to mitochondria from control leaves.
To our knowledge, this is the first report showing a 3D reconstruction of plant mitochondria. Furthermore, these results suggest that a detailed characterization of the link between changes in the ultrastructure and functionality of mitochondria during different nutritional conditions, can provide a successful approach to understand the role of these organelles in the plant response to Fe deficiency.
PMCID: PMC4479487  PMID: 26107946
3.  Impairment of Respiratory Chain under Nutrient Deficiency in Plants: Does it Play a Role in the Regulation of Iron and Sulfur Responsive Genes? 
Plant production and plant product quality strongly depend on the availability of mineral nutrients. Among them, sulfur (S) and iron (Fe) play a central role, as they are needed for many proteins of the respiratory chain. Plant mitochondria play essential bioenergetic and biosynthetic functions as well as they have an important role in signaling processes into the cell. Here, by comparing several transcriptomic data sets from plants impaired in their respiratory function with the genes regulated under Fe or S deficiencies obtained from other data sets, nutrient-responsive genes potentially regulated by hypothetical mitochondrial retrograde signaling pathway are evidenced. It leads us to hypothesize that plant mitochondria could be, therefore, required for regulating the expression of key genes involved both in Fe and S metabolisms.
PMCID: PMC4700279  PMID: 26779219
iron; mitochondria dysfunctions; nutrient-responsive genes; respiratory chain; sulfur
4.  Are drought-resistance promoting bacteria cross-compatible with different plant models? 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2013;8(10):e26741.
The association between plant and plant growth promoting bacteria (PGPB) contributes to the successful thriving of plants in extreme environments featured by water shortage. We have recently shown that, with respect to the non-cultivated desert soil, the rhizosphere of pepper plants cultivated under desert farming hosts PGPB communities that are endowed with a large portfolio of PGP traits. Pepper plants exposed to bacterial isolates from plants cultivated under desert farming exhibited a higher tolerance to water shortage, compared with untreated control. This promotion was mediated by a larger root system (up to 40%), stimulated by the bacteria, that enhanced plant ability to uptake water from dry soil. We provide initial evidence that the nature of the interaction can have a limited level of specificity and that PGPB isolates may determine resistance to water stress in plants others than the one of the original isolation. It is apparent that, in relation to plant resistance to water stress, a feature of primary evolutionary importance for all plants, a cross-compatibility between PGPB and different plant models exists at least on a short-term.
PMCID: PMC4091069  PMID: 24270625
arid ecosystem; drought tolerance; endosphere; plant growth promoting bacteria; plant-bacteria cross-compatibility; rhizosphere; water stress
5.  Searching iron sensors in plants by exploring the link among 2′-OG-dependent dioxygenases, the iron deficiency response and metabolic adjustments occurring under iron deficiency 
Knowledge accumulated on the regulation of iron (Fe) homeostasis, its intracellular trafficking and transport across various cellular compartments and organs in plants; storage proteins, transporters and transcription factors involved in Fe metabolism have been analyzed in detail in recent years. However, the key sensor(s) of cellular plant “Fe status” triggering the long-distance shoot–root signaling and leading to the root Fe deficiency responses is (are) still unknown. Local Fe sensing is also a major task for roots, for adjusting the internal Fe requirements to external Fe availability: how such sensing is achieved and how it leads to metabolic adjustments in case of nutrient shortage, is mostly unknown. Two proteins belonging to the 2′-OG-dependent dioxygenases family accumulate several folds in Fe-deficient Arabidopsis roots. Such proteins require Fe(II) as enzymatic cofactor; one of their subgroups, the HIF-P4H (hypoxia-inducible factor-prolyl 4-hydroxylase), is an effective oxygen sensor in animal cells. We envisage here the possibility that some members of the 2′-OG dioxygenase family may be involved in the Fe deficiency response and in the metabolic adjustments to Fe deficiency or even in sensing Fe, in plant cells.
PMCID: PMC3668137  PMID: 23755060
Arabidopsis thaliana; iron sensor; HIF (hypoxia-inducible factor); 2′-OG-dependent dioxygenase; prolyl 4-hydroxylase
6.  Mitochondrial ferritin is a functional iron-storage protein in cucumber (Cucumis sativus) roots 
In plants, intracellular Fe trafficking must satisfy chloroplasts' and mitochondrial demands for Fe without allowing its accumulation in the organelles in dangerous redox-active forms. Protein ferritin is involved in such homeostatic control, however its functional role in mitochondria, differently from its role in chloroplasts, is still matter of debate. To test ferritin functionality as a 24-mer Fe-storage complex in mitochondria, cucumber seedlings were grown under different conditions of Fe supply (excess, control, deficiency) and mitochondria were purified from the roots. A ferritin monomer of around 25 KDa was detected by SDS-PAGE in Fe-excess root mitochondria, corresponding to the annotated Csa5M215130/XP_004163524 protein: such a monomer is barely detectable in the control mitochondria and not at all in the Fe-deficient ones. Correspondingly, the ferritin 24-mer complex is abundant in root mitochondria from Fe-excess plants and it stores Fe as Fe(III): such a complex is also detectable, though to a much smaller extent, in control mitochondria, but not in Fe-deficient ones. Cucumber ferritin Csa5M215130/XP_004163524 is therefore a functional Fe(III)-store in root mitochondria and its abundance is dependent on the Fe nutritional status of the plant.
PMCID: PMC3744851  PMID: 23967005
Cucumis sativus; ferritin; iron homeostasis; iron-storage protein; mitochondria; micronutrients; O2 consumption; roots
7.  Fe deficiency differentially affects the vacuolar proton pumps in cucumber and soybean roots 
Iron uptake in dicots depends on their ability to induce a set of responses in root cells including rhizosphere acidification through H+ extrusion and apoplastic Fe(III) reduction by Fe(III)-chelate reductase. These responses must be sustained by metabolic rearrangements aimed at providing the required NAD(P)H, ATP and H+. Previous results in Fe-deficient cucumber roots showed that high H+ extrusion is accompanied by increased phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC) activity, involved in the cytosol pH-stat; moreover 31P-NMR analysis revealed increased vacuolar pH and decreased vacuolar [inorganic phosphate (Pi)]. The opposite was found in soybean: low rhizosphere acidification, decreased PEPC activity, vacuole acidification, and increased vacuolar [Pi]. These findings, highlighting a different impact of the Fe deficiency responses on cytosolic pH in the two species, lead to hypothesize different roles for H+ and Pi movements across the tonoplast in pH homeostasis. The role of vacuole in cytosolic pH-stat involves the vacuolar H+-ATPase (V-ATPase) and vacuolar H+-pyrophosphatase (V-PPase) activities, which generating the ΔpH and ΔΨ, mediate the transport of solutes, among which Pi, across the tonoplast. Fluxes of Pi itself in its two ionic forms, H2PO4- predominating in the vacuole and HPO42- in the cytosol, may be involved in pH homeostasis owing to its pH-dependent protonation/deprotonation reactions. Tonoplast enriched fractions were obtained from cucumber and soybean roots grown with or without Fe. Both V-ATPase and V-PPase activities were analyzed and the enrichment and localization of the corresponding proteins in root tissues were determined by Western blot and immunolocalization. V-ATPase did not change its activity and expression level in response to Fe starvation in both species. V-PPase showed a different behavior: in cucumber roots its activity and abundance were decreased, while in Fe-deficient soybean roots they were increased. The distinct role of the two H+ pumps in Pi fluxes between cytoplasm and vacuole in Fe-deficient cucumber and soybean root cells is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3753452  PMID: 23986768
V-ATPase; V-PPase; Fe deficiency; cucumber; soybean
8.  Cellular iron homeostasis and metabolism in plant 
PMCID: PMC3847546  PMID: 24348493
plant Fe homeostasis; plant metabolism; chloroplast; mitochondrion; vacuole; Fe transporters; Fe-S clusters; plant Fe localization
9.  A Drought Resistance-Promoting Microbiome Is Selected by Root System under Desert Farming 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48479.
Traditional agro-systems in arid areas are a bulwark for preserving soil stability and fertility, in the sight of “reverse desertification”. Nevertheless, the impact of desert farming practices on the diversity and abundance of the plant associated microbiome is poorly characterized, including its functional role in supporting plant development under drought stress.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We assessed the structure of the microbiome associated to the drought-sensitive pepper plant (Capsicum annuum L.) cultivated in a traditional Egyptian farm, focusing on microbe contribution to a crucial ecosystem service, i.e. plant growth under water deficit. The root system was dissected by sampling root/soil with a different degree of association to the plant: the endosphere, the rhizosphere and the root surrounding soil that were compared to the uncultivated soil. Bacterial community structure and diversity, determined by using Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis, differed according to the microhabitat, indicating a selective pressure determined by the plant activity. Similarly, culturable bacteria genera showed different distribution in the three root system fractions. Bacillus spp. (68% of the isolates) were mainly recovered from the endosphere, while rhizosphere and the root surrounding soil fractions were dominated by Klebsiella spp. (61% and 44% respectively). Most of the isolates (95%) presented in vitro multiple plant growth promoting (PGP) activities and stress resistance capabilities, but their distribution was different among the root system fractions analyzed, with enhanced abilities for Bacillus and the rhizobacteria strains. We show that the C. annuum rhizosphere under desert farming enriched populations of PGP bacteria capable of enhancing plant photosynthetic activity and biomass synthesis (up to 40%) under drought stress.
Crop cultivation provides critical ecosystem services in arid lands with the plant root system acting as a “resource island” able to attract and select microbial communities endowed with multiple PGP traits that sustain plant development under water limiting conditions.
PMCID: PMC3485337  PMID: 23119032
10.  Iron deficiency affects nitrogen metabolism in cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) plants 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:189.
Nitrogen is a principal limiting nutrient in plant growth and development. Among factors that may limit NO3- assimilation, Fe potentially plays a crucial role being a metal cofactor of enzymes of the reductive assimilatory pathway. Very few information is available about the changes of nitrogen metabolism occurring under Fe deficiency in Strategy I plants. The aim of this work was to study how cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) plants modify their nitrogen metabolism when grown under iron deficiency.
The activity of enzymes involved in the reductive assimilation of nitrate and the reactions that produce the substrates for the ammonium assimilation both at root and at leaf levels in Fe-deficient cucumber plants were investigated. Under Fe deficiency, only nitrate reductase (EC activity decreased both at the root and leaf level, whilst for glutamine synthetase (EC and glutamate synthase (EC an increase was found. Accordingly, the transcript analysis for these enzymes showed the same behaviour except for root nitrate reductase which increased. Furthermore, it was found that amino acid concentration greatly decreased in Fe-deficient roots, whilst it increased in the corresponding leaves. Moreover, amino acids increased in the xylem sap of Fe-deficient plants.
The data obtained in this work provided new insights on the responses of plants to Fe deficiency, suggesting that this nutritional disorder differentially affected N metabolism in root and in leaf. Indeed under Fe deficiency, roots respond more efficiently, sustaining the whole plant by furnishing metabolites (i.e. aa, organic acids) to the leaves.
PMCID: PMC3539955  PMID: 23057967
C/N metabolism; Cucumis sativus L.; Fe deficiency; GS/GOGAT cycle; Isocitrate dehydrogenase; Nitrate reductase
12.  Proteomic characterization of iron deficiency responses in Cucumis sativus L. roots 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:268.
Iron deficiency induces in Strategy I plants physiological, biochemical and molecular modifications capable to increase iron uptake from the rhizosphere. This effort needs a reorganization of metabolic pathways to efficiently sustain activities linked to the acquisition of iron; in fact, carbohydrates and the energetic metabolism has been shown to be involved in these responses. The aim of this work was to find both a confirmation of the already expected change in the enzyme concentrations induced in cucumber root tissue in response to iron deficiency as well as to find new insights on the involvement of other pathways.
The proteome pattern of soluble cytosolic proteins extracted from roots was obtained by 2-DE. Of about two thousand spots found, only those showing at least a two-fold increase or decrease in the concentration were considered for subsequent identification by mass spectrometry. Fifty-seven proteins showed significant changes, and 44 of them were identified. Twenty-one of them were increased in quantity, whereas 23 were decreased in quantity. Most of the increased proteins belong to glycolysis and nitrogen metabolism in agreement with the biochemical evidence. On the other hand, the proteins being decreased belong to the metabolism of sucrose and complex structural carbohydrates and to structural proteins.
The new available techniques allow to cast new light on the mechanisms involved in the changes occurring in plants under iron deficiency. The data obtained from this proteomic study confirm the metabolic changes occurring in cucumber as a response to Fe deficiency. Two main conclusions may be drawn. The first one is the confirmation of the increase in the glycolytic flux and in the anaerobic metabolism to sustain the energetic effort the Fe-deficient plants must undertake. The second conclusion is, on one hand, the decrease in the amount of enzymes linked to the biosynthesis of complex carbohydrates of the cell wall, and, on the other hand, the increase in enzymes linked to the turnover of proteins.
PMCID: PMC3016405  PMID: 21122124
13.  The fate and the role of mitochondria in Fe-deficient roots of strategy I plants 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2009;4(5):375-379.
In well aerated soils, iron exists, mainly as scarcely soluble oxides and oxi-hydroxides and, therefore, not freely available to plants uptake, notwithstanding its abundance. Multifaceted strategies involving reductase activities, proton processes, specialized storage proteins, and other, act in concert to mobilize iron from the environment, to take it up and to distribute it inside the plant. Because of its fundamental role in plant productivity several questions concerning homeostasis of iron in plants are currently a matter of intense debate. We discuss some recent studies on Strategy I responses in dicotyledonous plants focusing on metabolic change induced by iron deficiency, mainly concerning the involvement of mitochondria.
PMCID: PMC2676746  PMID: 19816113
Fe deficiency; glycolysis; mitochondria; reducing equivalents; respiratory chain; TCA cycle

Results 1-13 (13)