Modulation of plant morphology, root architecture, and cell structure by low vitamin C in Arabidopsis thaliana

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Abstract

Ascorbic acid (AA) fulfils many essential functions in plants. It is a key antioxidant and an important reducing substrate for a number of enzymes. The effects of low AA on plant architecture and leaf ultrastructure were studied in Arabidopsis thaliana mutants, which have constitutively moderately low (vtc1) or very low (vtc2) leaf AA contents compared with the wild type. Shoot development was comparable in all accessions over the first 14 d of growth. The production of primary roots was slightly different in vtc1, vtc2, and wild-type plants. However, the most notable difference was that a high proportion of the primary roots of the vtc2 plants grown on soil had lost the wild-type responses to gravity. The vtc mutants showed the antagonistic interaction between nitrate and sugar in the regulation of lateral root (LR) development that was observed in the wild type. However, the vtc2 mutants produced greater numbers of longer LRs than wild-type or vtc1 plants at all levels of nitrate. At later stages of development, the vtc rosettes were smaller than those of the wild type and the leaves showed intracellular structural changes that are consistent with programmed cell death (PCD). PCD symptoms such as nuclear chromatin condensation, the presence of multivesicular bodies, and extensive degradation and disorganization of the grana stacks were observed in 8-week-old vtc2 leaves and in 10-week-old vtc1 leaves. The data presented here illustrate the importance of tissue AA contents in regulating whole plant morphology, cell structure, and development.

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