Phosphorus deficiency can have a very serious impact on crop production, and symptoms include poor growth and reduction in fruit yield. The 'Phosphate signalling in plants: Dynamic study of phosphate movements and gene induction kinetics' (PHOSPHEURUS) project has investigated the pathways involved in the acquisition, detection and homeostatic control of this nutrient. Using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the Mediterranean clover-like plant Medicago truncatula, the PHOSPHEURUS team followed the products of a set of phosphate-responding genes. Under phosphate starvation conditions, the researchers recorded the induction or repression of the genes related to phosphate metabolism. For tracking purposes, researchers generated 20 Arabidopsis and 2 Medicago lines that are luminescent during phosphate regulation. To overcome the technical barrier of free phosphate fluctuations, the scientists developed a 'caged-phosphate' compound for the controlled release of phosphate as a result of light illumination in living cells. These two tools were used to track newly identified components of the phosphate detection signalling cascade. Specifically, how signals can be differentially transmitted to different tissues in the plant can be ascertained. Identification of different markers in the molecular machinery controlling phosphate use can be applied to monitoring and controlling efficiency of nutrient use in crops. Particularly relevant in ecological strategies to minimise and optimise use of artificial fertilisers, project deliverables also stand to result in more efficient use of nutrient application.
Phosphate, crops, plant cells, gene induction, signalling cascade