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Analysis of the responses to nitrogen limitation in tomato: New strategies for sustainable agriculture

The development of high nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) cultivars under low N inputs is required for a more efficient and sustainable agriculture.

To this end, in this study, we analyzed the impact of long term suboptimal N conditions on the metabolome and transcriptome of tomato to identify specific molecular processes and regulators at the organ scale. Physiological and metabolic analysis revealed specific responses to maintain glutamate, asparagine, and sucrose synthesis in leaves for partition to sustain growth, while assimilated C surplus is stored in the roots.

The transcriptomic analyses allowed us to identify root and leaf sets of genes whose expression depends on N availability. Gene ontology analyses of the identified genes revealed conserved biological functions involved in C and N metabolism and remobilization as well as other specifics such as the mitochondrial alternative respiration and chloroplastic cyclic electron flux. In addition, integrative analyses uncovered N regulated genes in root and leaf clusters, which are positively correlated with changes in the levels of different metabolites such as organic acids, amino acids and formate. Interestingly, associated to these clusters, we identified transcription regulators with high identity to TGA4, ARF8, HAT22, NF-YA5, and NLP9, which play key roles in N responses in Arabidopsis.

This study provides a set of nitrogen-responsive genes in tomato and new putative targets for tomato NUE and fruit quality improvement under limited N supply.

Figure. Integrative analysis of transcriptomic (A) and metabolomic (B) data revealed significant correlations between different gene clusters and specific metabolic compounds (C) involved in responses to N limitation in tomato.

Original Paper:

Renau-Morata, B., Molina, R.-V., Minguet, E.G., Cebolla-Cornejo, J., Carrillo, L., Martí, R., García-Carpintero, V., Jiménez-Benavente, E., Yang, L., Cañizares, J., Canales, J., Medina, J., Nebauer, S.G. 2021. Integrative Transcriptomic and Metabolomic Analysis at Organ Scale Reveals Gene Modules Involved in the Responses to Suboptimal Nitrogen Supply in Tomato. Agronomy 11, 1320. DOI: 10.3390/agronomy11071320

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