Fine-tuning of root elongation by ethylene: a tool to study dynamic structure–function relationships between root architecture and nitrate absorption

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Background Recently developed genetic and pharmacological approaches have been used to explore /ethylene signalling interactions and how the modifications in root architecture by pharmacological modulation of ethylene biosynthesis affect nitrate uptake.

Key Results Structure–function studies combined with recent approaches to chemical genomics highlight the non-specificity of commonly used inhibitors of ethylene biosynthesis such as AVG (L-aminoethoxyvinylglycine). Indeed, AVG inhibits aminotransferases such as ACC synthase (ACS) and tryptophan aminotransferase (TAA) involved in ethylene and auxin biosynthesis but also some aminotransferases implied in nitrogen (N) metabolism. In this framework, it can be assumed that the products of nitrate assimilation and hormones may interact through a hub in carbon (C) and N metabolism to drive the root morphogenetic programme (RMP). Although ethylene/auxin interactions play a major role in cell division and elongation in root meristems, shaping of the root system depends also on energetic considerations. Based on this finding, the analysis is extended to nutrient ion–hormone interactions assuming a fractal or constructal model for root development.

Conclusion Therefore, the tight control of root structure–function in the RMP may explain why over-expressing nitrate transporter genes to decouple structure–function relationships and improve nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) has been unsuccessful.

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