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Vascular-mediated signalling involved in early phosphate stress response in plants


Depletion of finite global rock phosphate (Pi) reserves will impose major limitations on future agricultural productivity and food security. Hence, modern breeding programmes seek to develop Pi-efficient crops with sustainable yields under reduced Pi fertilizer inputs. In this regard, although the long-term responses of plants to Pi stress are well documented, the early signalling events have yet to be elucidated. Here, we show plant tissue-specific responses to early Pi stress at the transcription level and a predominant role of the plant vascular system in this process. Specifically, imposition of Pi stress induces rapid and major changes in the mRNA population in the phloem translocation stream, and grafting studies have revealed that many hundreds of phloem-mobile mRNAs are delivered to specific sink tissues. We propose that the shoot vascular system acts as the site of root-derived Pi stress perception, and the phloem serves to deliver a cascade of signals to various sinks, presumably to coordinate whole-plant Pi homeostasis.

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Figure 1: Spatiotemporal early response to Pi stress in cucumber.
Figure 2: Tissue-specific differentially expressed mRNAs in response to early Pi stress in cucumber.
Figure 3: Tissue-specific differentially expressed miRNAs in response to early Pi stress in cucumber.
Figure 4: Graft-transmissible mRNAs and their response to early Pi stress.
Figure 5: Graft-transmissible mRNA classification and analyses of a group of candidate long-distance signalling mRNAs.


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We thank J. Zeng, W.-c. Hu and S. Zhang for technical support. This work was supported by grants from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA; 201015479 to W.J.L. and L.V.K.) and the National Science Foundation (IOS-1339128 to W.J.L.).

Author information




Z.Z., L.V.K., Z.F. and W.J.L. conceived this project and designed the experiments. Z.Z., Y.Z., B.-K.H., J.C. and A.Y. performed the experiments. All authors contributed to data analysis. Z.Z. and W.J.L. wrote the manuscript with input from L.V.K., Z.F., Y.Z., B.-K.H., J.C. and A.Y.

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Correspondence to William J. Lucas.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Zhang, Z., Zheng, Y., Ham, BK. et al. Vascular-mediated signalling involved in early phosphate stress response in plants. Nature Plants 2, 16033 (2016).

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