Environmental genetics of root system architecture

Kellermeier, Fabian (2013) Environmental genetics of root system architecture. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3007066


The root system is the plant’s principal organ for water and mineral nutrient supply. Root growth follows an endogenous, developmental programme. Yet, this programme can be modulated by external cues which makes root system architecture (RSA), the spatial configuration of all root parts, a highly plastic trait. Presence or absence of nutrients such as nitrate (N), phosphate (P), potassium (K) and sulphate (S) serve as environmental signals to which a plant responds with targeted proliferation or restriction of main or lateral root growth. In turn, RSA serves as a quantitative reporter system of nutrient starvation responses and can therefore be used to study nutrient sensing and signalling mechanisms.

In this study, I have analysed root architectural responses of various Arabidopsis thaliana genotypes (wildtype, mutants and natural accessions) to single and multiple nutrient deficiency treatments. A comprehensive analysis of combinatorial N, P, K an S supply allowed me to dissect the effect of individual nutrients on individual root parameters. It also highlighted the existence of interactive effects arising from simultaneous environmental stimuli. Quantification of appropriate RSA parameters allowed for targeted testing of known regulatory genes in specific nutritional settings. This revealed, for example, a novel role for CIPK23, AKT1 and NRT1.1 in integrating K and N effects on higher order lateral root branching and main root angle.
A significant contribution to phenotypic variation also arose from P*K interactions. I could show that the iron (Fe) concentration in the external medium is an important driving force of RSA responses to low-P and low-K. In fact, P and K deprivation caused Fe accumulation in distinct parts of the root system, as demonstrated by Fe staining and synchrotron X-Ray fluorescence. Again, selected K, P and Fe transport and signalling mutants were tested for aberrant low-K and/or low-P phenotypes. Most notably, the two paralogous ER-localised multicopper oxidases LPR1 and LPR2 emerged as important signalling components of P and K deprivation, potentially integrating Fe homeostasis with meristematic activity under these conditions.

In addition to the targeted characterisation of specific genotype-environment interactions, I investigated novel RSA responses to low-K via a non-targeted approach based on natural variation. A morphological gradient spanned the entire genotype set, linking two extreme strategies of low-K responses. Strategy I accessions responded to low-K with a moderate reduction of main root growth but a severe restriction of lateral root elongation. In contrast, strategy II genotypes ceded main root growth in favour of lateral root proliferation. The genetic basis of these low-K responses was then subsequently mapped onto the A. thaliana genome via quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis using recombinant inbred lines derived from parental accessions that either adopt strategy I (Col-0) or II (Ct-1).

In sum, this study addresses the question how plants incorporate environmental signals to modulate developmental programmes that underly RSA formation. I present evidence for novel phenotypic responses to nutrient deprivation and for novel genetic regulators involved in nutrient signalling and crosstalk.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Plant Science; Arabidopsis thaliana; root system architecture; nutrient; sensing; signalling; nitrate; potassium; phosphate; iron
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Q Science > QK Botany
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Molecular Cell and Systems Biology
Supervisor's Name: Amtmann, Dr. Anna
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Mr Fabian Kellermeier
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4663
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2014 11:14
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2016 14:10
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/4663

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