Shoot-to-root mobile polypeptides involved in systemic regulation of nitrogen acquisition

IR HANDLE Open Access

Abstract

Plants uptake nitrogen (N) from the soil mainly in the form of nitrate. However, nitrate is often distributed heterogeneously in natural soil. Plants, therefore, have a systemic long-distance signalling mechanism by which N starvation on one side of the root leads to a compensatory N uptake on the other N-rich side1,2. This systemic N acquisition response is triggered by a root-to-shoot mobile peptide hormone, C-TERMINALLY ENCODED PEPTIDE (CEP), originating from the N-starved roots3,4, but the molecular nature of the descending shoot-to-root signal remains elusive. Here, we show that phloem-specific polypeptides that are induced in leaves upon perception of root-derived CEP act as descending long-distance mobile signals translocated to each root. These shoot-derived polypeptides, which we named CEP DOWNSTREAM 1 (CEPD1) and CEPD2, upregulate the expression of the nitrate transporter gene NRT2.1 in roots specifically when nitrate is present in the rhizosphere. Arabidopsis plants deficient in this pathway show impaired systemic N acquisition response accompanied with N-deficiency symptoms. These fundamental mechanistic insights should provide a conceptual framework for understanding systemic nutrient acquisition responses in plants.

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