Perception of root-derived peptides by shoot LRR-RKs mediates systemic N-demand signaling

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Science  17 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6207, pp. 343-346
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257800

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Nitrogen (N) is a critical nutrient for plants but is often distributed unevenly in the soil. Plants therefore have evolved a systemic mechanism by which N starvation on one side of the root system leads to a compensatory and increased nitrate uptake on the other side. Here, we study the molecular systems that support perception of N and the long-distance signaling needed to alter root development. Rootlets starved of N secrete small peptides that are translocated to the shoot and received by two leucine-rich repeat receptor kinases (LRR-RKs). Arabidopsis plants deficient in this pathway show growth retardation accompanied with N-deficiency symptoms. Thus, signaling from the root to the shoot helps the plant adapt to fluctuations in local N availability.

Getting to the root of a root problem

Although a plant's root system reaches through the soil in search of nutrients, its search is not indiscriminate. If some section of the root is unable to deliver the amount of nitrogen that the rest of the plant demands, other sections of the root compensate and ramp up their delivery of nitrogen. Tabata et al. have now found a small peptide that delivers a signal involved in this process (see the Perspective by Bisseling and Scheres). Only with perception of the signal by the matching receptor in the shoot can the root system compensate for unproductive members.

Science, this issue p. 343; see also p. 300

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