Genomes and Genes
REGULATION OF AMINO ACID BIOSYNTHESIS GENES IN PLANTS
Principal Investigator: Gloria Coruzzi
Affiliation: New York University
Abstract: The overall goal of our research is to gain a molecular understanding of the regulatory processes that control the assimilation of inorganic nitrogen in plants. This process plays a central role in the regulation of plant growth and development. Using molecular-genetic approaches in Arabidopsis, we identified isoenzymes of GS, GOGAT and GDH that control the assimilation of inorganic-N into Glu/Gln, key amino acids used to transport nitrogen within and between cells. Our studies indicate that expression of these genes is regulated by the metabolic status of the plant. For example, transcriptional induction of GS by light, can be mimicked by sucrose in the absence of light. Moreover, sucrose induction of GS expression can be antagonized by amino acids, which results in repression of GS activity. This led us to hypothesize that plants have a mechanism to sense internal levels of amino acids. This would allow a plant to turn off assimilation of inorganic-N when internal levels of amino acid are high. Testing this hypothesis, defining it mechanistically, and identifying components thereof, is the focus of this renewal. Towards this goal, we have begun to characterize amino acid sensing/signaling components in Arabidopsis using molecular-genetic, cell biological, and biochemical approaches. Our reverse genetic studies are driven by the hypothesis that amino acid sensing is primitive and conserved in evolution. In support of this, the repression of GS expression by amino acids in plants is mechanistically reminiscent of the Ntr system in E. coli. Moreover, we identified a plant homologue of an Ntr component, PII, and showed using PII transgenic plants that PII appears to play a role in C:N sensing in chloroplasts an in GS regulation, as it does in Ntr. The amino acid products of N-assimilation are exported from chloroplasts and transported to other cells, and we have evidence that Glu, the prinicple intermediate, may serve as an extracellular signal . In support of this, we identified putative sensors of extracellular Glu, plant homologues of animal glutamate receptors (iGluRs). We showed plant GluRs function as ligand-gated ion channels, and studies of GLR transgenic plants indicate they may play a role in light signal transduction, reminiscent of their counterparts in the retina and brain. These findings suggest iGluRs are derived from a primitive amino acid signaling mechanism that existed before plants and animals diverged. We propose to exploit this evolutionary conservation and test whether Arabidopsis (or GLR mutants we isolate) can be used in a bioassay for drugs to treat GluR-related diseases in humans. We will also use forward genetic approaches to isolate amino acid sensing/signaling mutants in Arabidopsis which may identify components of these evolutionarily conserved amino acid signaling pathways or novel pathways.
Funding Period: 1983-12-01 - 2004-02-29
more information: NIH RePORT
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