How do plants build on their favorite nutrient?

Plants adapt their growth to nutrient availability in the soil. One of most pressing global food challenges is to engineer plants towards more efficient nutrient acquisition. Using combination of computer modeling and experiments the PlantDynamics lab demonstrated a mechanism underlying synchronized tissue growth that depends on nitrate levels.


Sufficient availability of nitrogen in the soil is critical for plant survival leveraging agricultural productivity. Plants have evolved effective strategies to utilize non-uniform nitrogen distributions through subtle changes in the root system architecture. How do nutrients affect root growth remains poorly understood.

PlantDynamics lab led by Dr. Wabnik (CBGP) in collaboration with Dr. Eva Benkova (IST Austria) used the combination of live-cell imaging, genetics, cell biology, and multilevel computer modeling to demonstrate how nitrate shapes the primary root growth through fine-tuning of exchange of auxin between outer cortex and epidermis tissues. This study reveals an unexpected mechanistic link between nitrate levels and phosphorylation status of auxin efflux carrier PIN2 which determines the auxin transport capacity.

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A postdoctoral researcher Marco Marconi from PlantDynamics Lab constructed a quantitative computer model of root growth that highlights mechanistic principles underlying nutrient-dependent root growth that complements experimental observations.

This work provides a molecular framework for the root growth in a dynamically changing environment.

Publicación Original:

Ötvös, K., Marconi, M., Vega, A., O’Brien, J., Johnson, A., Abualia, R., Antonielli, L., Montesinos, J.C., Zhang, Y., Tan, S., Cuesta, C., Artner, C., Bouguyon, E., Gojon, A., Friml, J., Gutiérrez, R.A., Wabnik, K., Benková, E. 2021. Modulation of plant root growth by nitrogen source-defined regulation of polar auxin transport. The EMBO Journal e106862. DOI: 10.15252/embj.2020106862