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1.  An underground tale: contribution of microbial activity to plant iron acquisition via ecological processes 
Annals of Botany  2013;113(1):7-18.
Iron (Fe) deficiency in crops is a worldwide agricultural problem. Plants have evolved several strategies to enhance Fe acquisition, but increasing evidence has shown that the intrinsic plant-based strategies alone are insufficient to avoid Fe deficiency in Fe-limited soils. Soil micro-organisms also play a critical role in plant Fe acquisition; however, the mechanisms behind their promotion of Fe acquisition remain largely unknown.
This review focuses on the possible mechanisms underlying the promotion of plant Fe acquisition by soil micro-organisms.
Fe-deficiency-induced root exudates alter the microbial community in the rhizosphere by modifying the physicochemical properties of soil, and/or by their antimicrobial and/or growth-promoting effects. The altered microbial community may in turn benefit plant Fe acquisition via production of siderophores and protons, both of which improve Fe bioavailability in soil, and via hormone generation that triggers the enhancement of Fe uptake capacity in plants. In addition, symbiotic interactions between micro-organisms and host plants could also enhance plant Fe acquisition, possibly including: rhizobium nodulation enhancing plant Fe uptake capacity and mycorrhizal fungal infection enhancing root length and the nutrient acquisition area of the root system, as well as increasing the production of Fe3+ chelators and protons.
PMCID: PMC3864720  PMID: 24265348
Hormones; iron deficiency; microbial community structure; siderophore; symbiosis
2.  Nitric oxide is the shared signalling molecule in phosphorus- and iron-deficiency-induced formation of cluster roots in white lupin (Lupinus albus) 
Annals of Botany  2012;109(6):1055-1064.
Background and Aims
Formation of cluster roots is one of the most specific root adaptations to nutrient deficiency. In white lupin (Lupinus albus), cluster roots can be induced by phosphorus (P) or iron (Fe) deficiency. The aim of the present work was to investigate the potential shared signalling pathway in P- and Fe-deficiency-induced cluster root formation.
Measurements were made of the internal concentration of nutrients, levels of nitric oxide (NO), citrate exudation and expression of some specific genes under four P × Fe combinations, namely (1) 50 µm P and 10 µm Fe (+P + Fe); (2) 0 P and 10 µm Fe (–P + Fe); (3) 50 µm P and 0 Fe (+P–Fe); and (4) 0 P and 0 Fe (–P–Fe), and these were examined in relation to the formation of cluster roots.
Key Results
The deficiency of P, Fe or both increased the cluster root number and cluster zones. It also enhanced NO accumulation in pericycle cells and rootlet primordia at various stages of cluster root development. The formation of cluster roots and rootlet primordia, together with the expression of LaSCR1 and LaSCR2 which is crucial in cluster root formation, were induced by the exogenous NO donor S-nitrosoglutathione (GSNO) under the +P + Fe condition, but were inhibited by the NO-specific endogenous scavenger 2-(4-carboxyphenyl)-4, 4, 5, 5-tetramethylimidazoline-1-oxyl- 3-oxide (cPTIO) under –P + Fe, +P–Fe and –P–Fe conditions. However, cluster roots induced by an exogenous supply of the NO donor did not secrete citrate, unlike those formed under –P or –Fe conditions.
NO plays an important role in the shared signalling pathway of the P- and Fe-deficiency-induced formation of cluster roots in white lupin.
PMCID: PMC3336943  PMID: 22351487
Cluster roots; gene expression; iron deficiency; nitric oxide; phosphorus deficiency; Lupinus albus
3.  Genotypic differences in Al resistance and the role of cell-wall pectin in Al exclusion from the root apex in Fagopyrum tataricum 
Annals of Botany  2010;107(3):371-378.
Background and Aims
Aluminium (Al) toxicity is one of the factors limiting crop production on acid soils. However, genotypic differences exist among plant species or cultivars in response to Al toxicity. This study aims to investigate genotypic differences among eight cultivars of tatary buckwheat (Fagopyrum tataricum) for Al resistance and explore the possible mechanisms of Al resistance.
Al resistance was evaluated based on relative root elongation (root elongation with Al/root elongation without Al). Root apex Al content, pectin content and exudation of root organic acids were determined and compared.
Key Results
Genotypic differences among the eight cultivars were correlated with exclusion of Al from the root apex. However, there was a lack of correlation between Al exclusion and Al-induced oxalate secretion. Interestingly, cell-wall pectin content of the root apex was generally lower in Al-resistant cultivars than in Al-sensitive cultivars. Although we were unable to establish a significant correlation between Al exclusion and pectin content among the eight cultivars, a strong correlation could be established among six cultivars, in which the pectin content in the most Al-resistant cultivar ‘Chuan’ was significantly lower than that in the most Al-sensitive cultivar ‘Liuku2’. Furthermore, root apex cell-wall pectin methylesterase activity (PME) was similar in ‘Chuan’ and ‘Liuku2’ in the absence of Al, but Al treatment resulted in increased PME activity in ‘Liuku2’ compared with ‘Chuan’. Immunolocalization of pectins also showed that the two cultivars had similar amounts of either low-methyl-ester pectins or high-methyl-ester pectins in the absence of Al, but Al treatment resulted in a more significant increase of low-methyl-ester pectins and decrease of high-methyl-ester pectins in ‘Liuku2’.
Cell-wall pectin content may contribute, at least in part, to differential Al resistance among tatary buckwheat cultivars.
PMCID: PMC3043930  PMID: 21183454
Aluminium resistance; cell wall; exclusion mechanism; Fagopyrum tataricum; pectin; pectin methylesterase; oxalate; toxicity
4.  Crop production on acidic soils: overcoming aluminium toxicity and phosphorus deficiency 
Annals of Botany  2010;106(1):183-184.
PMCID: PMC2889811  PMID: 20570831
6.  Disorganized distribution of homogalacturonan epitopes in cell walls as one possible mechanism for aluminium-induced root growth inhibition in maize 
Annals of Botany  2009;104(2):235-241.
Background and Aims
Aluminium (Al) toxicity is one of the most severe limitations to crop production in acid soils. Inhibition of root elongation is the primary symptom of Al toxicity. However, the underlying basis of the process is unclear. Considering the multiple physiological and biochemical functions of pectin in plants, possible involvement of homogalacturonan (HG), one of the pectic polysaccharide domains, was examined in connection with root growth inhibition induced by Al.
An immunolabelling technique with antibodies specific to HG epitopes (JIM5, unesterified residues flanked by methylesterifed residues; JIM7, methyl-esterified residues flanked by unesterified residues) was used to visualize the distribution of different types of HG in cell walls of root apices of two maize cultivars differing in Al resistance.
Key Results
In the absence of Al, the JIM5 epitope was present around the cell wall with higher fluorescence intensity at cell corners lining the intercellular spaces, and the JIM7 epitope was present throughout the cell wall. However, treatment with 50 µm Al for 3 h produced 10 % root growth inhibition in both cultivars and caused the disappearance of fluorescence in the middle lamella of both epitopes. Prolonged Al treatment (24 h) with 50 % root growth inhibition in ‘B73’, an Al-sensitive cultivar, resulted in faint and irregular distribution of both epitopes. In ‘Nongda3138’, an Al-resistant cultivar, the distribution of HG epitopes was also restricted to the lining of intercellular spaces when a 50 % inhibition to root growth was induced by Al (100 µm Al, 9 h). Altered distribution of both epitopes was also observed when of roots were exposed to 50 µm LaCl3 for 24 h, resulting in 40 % inhibition of root growth.
Changes in HG distribution and root growth inhibition were highly correlated, indicating that Al-induced perturbed distribution of HG epitopes is possibly involved in Al-induced inhibition of root growth in maize.
PMCID: PMC2710910  PMID: 19483201
Al toxicity; cell wall; homogalacturnonan; immunofluorescence; methylesterification; pectin

Results 1-6 (6)