Analysis of the Root System Architecture of Arabidopsis Provides a Quantitative Readout of Crosstalk between Nutritional SignalsW OPEN
Plant roots show a particularly high variation in their morphological response to different nutrient deficiencies. Although such changes often determine the nutrient efficiency or stress tolerance of plants, it is surprising that a comprehensive and comparative analysis of root morphological responses to different nutrient deficiencies has not yet been conducted. Since one reason for this is an inherent difficulty in obtaining nutrient-deficient conditions in agar culture, we first identified conditions appropriate for producing nutrient-deficient plants on agar plates. Based on a careful selection of agar specifically for each nutrient being considered, we grew Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) plants at four levels of deficiency for 12 nutrients and quantified seven root traits. In combination with measurements of biomass and elemental concentrations, we observed that the nutritional status and type of nutrient determined the extent and type of changes in root system architecture (RSA). The independent regulation of individual root traits further pointed to a differential sensitivity of root tissues to nutrient limitations. To capture the variation in RSA under different nutrient supplies, we used principal component analysis and developed a root plasticity chart representing the overall modulations in RSA under a given treatment. This systematic comparison of RSA responses to nutrient deficiencies provides a comprehensive view of the overall changes in root plasticity induced by the deficiency of single nutrients and provides a solid basis for the identification of nutrient-sensitive steps in the root developmental program.