Combining -Omics to Unravel the Impact of Copper Nutrition on Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) Stem Metabolism

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Copper can be found in the environment at concentrations ranging from a shortage up to the threshold of toxicity for plants, with optimal growth conditions situated in between. The plant stem plays a central role in transferring and distributing minerals, water and other solutes throughout the plant. In this study, alfalfa is exposed to different levels of copper availability, from deficiency to slight excess, and the impact on the metabolism of the stem is assessed by a non-targeted proteomics study and by the expression analysis of key genes controlling plant stem development. Under copper deficiency, the plant stem accumulates specific copper chaperones, the expression of genes involved in stem development is decreased and the concentrations of zinc and molybdenum are increased in comparison with the optimum copper level. At the optimal copper level, the expression of cell wall-related genes increases and proteins playing a role in cell wall deposition and in methionine metabolism accumulate, whereas copper excess imposes a reduction in the concentration of iron in the stem and a reduced abundance of ferritins. Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) analysis suggests a role for the apoplasm as a copper storage site in the case of copper toxicity.

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