Sulphur limitation and early sulphur deficiency responses in poplar: significance of gene expression, metabolites, and plant hormones

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The influence of sulphur (S) depletion on the expression of genes related to S metabolism, and on metabolite and plant hormone contents was analysed in young and mature leaves, fine roots, xylem sap, and phloem exudates of poplar (Populus tremula×Populus alba) with special focus on early consequences. S depletion was applied by a gradual decrease of sulphate availability. The observed changes were correlated with sulphate contents. Based on the decrease in sulphate contents, two phases of S depletion could be distinguished that were denominated as ‘S limitation’ and ‘early S deficiency’. S limitation was characterized by improved sulphate uptake (enhanced root-specific sulphate transporter PtaSULTR1;2 expression) and reduction capacities (enhanced adenosine 5′-phosphosulphate (APS) reductase expression) and by enhanced remobilization of sulphate from the vacuole (enhanced putative vacuolar sulphate transporter PtaSULTR4;2 expression). During early S deficiency, whole plant distribution of S was impacted, as indicated by increasing expression of the phloem-localized sulphate transporter PtaSULTR1;1 and by decreasing glutathione contents in fine roots, young leaves, mature leaves, and phloem exudates. Furthermore, at ‘early S deficiency’, expression of microRNA395 (miR395), which targets transcripts of PtaATPS3/4 (ATP sulphurylase) for cleavage, increased. Changes in plant hormone contents were observed at ‘early S deficiency’ only. Thus, S depletion affects S and plant hormone metabolism of poplar during ‘S limitation’ and ‘early S deficiency’ in a time series of events. Despite these consequences, the impact of S depletion on growth of poplar plants appears to be less severe than in Brassicaceae such as Arabidopsis thaliana or Brassica sp.

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