Alkaline stress and iron deficiency regulate iron uptake and riboflavin synthesis gene expression differently in root and leaf tissue: implications for iron deficiency chlorosis

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Abstract

Iron (Fe) is an essential mineral that has low solubility in alkaline soils, where its deficiency results in chlorosis. Whether low Fe supply and alkaline pH stress are equivalent is unclear, as they have not been treated as separate variables in molecular physiological studies. Additionally, molecular responses to these stresses have not been studied in leaf and root tissues simultaneously. We tested how plants with the Strategy I Fe uptake system respond to Fe deficiency at mildly acidic and alkaline pH by measuring root ferric chelate reductase (FCR) activity and expression of selected Fe uptake genes and riboflavin synthesis genes. Alkaline pH increased cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) root FCR activity at full Fe supply, but alkaline stress abolished FCR response to low Fe supply. Alkaline pH or low Fe supply resulted in increased expression of Fe uptake genes, but riboflavin synthesis genes responded to Fe deficiency but not alkalinity. Iron deficiency increased expression of some common genes in roots and leaves, but alkaline stress blocked up-regulation of these genes in Fe-deficient leaves. In roots of the melon (Cucumis melo L.) fefe mutant, in which Fe uptake responses are blocked upstream of Fe uptake genes, alkaline stress or Fe deficiency up-regulation of certain Fe uptake and riboflavin synthesis genes was inhibited, indicating a central role for the FeFe protein. These results suggest a model implicating shoot-to-root signaling of Fe status to induce Fe uptake gene expression in roots.

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