Discovery of compounds necessary for the growth of phosphorus-starved plants

October 23, 2021

Expected to be applied to agricultural technologies for poor lands

An international collaborative research team from RIKEN CSRS and the Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology, Academia Sinica has found that a compound called phosphocholine is necessary for the growth of phosphorus-starved plants.

While phosphorus is abundantly found in phospholipids, a component of biological membrane, it had not been known how phospholipid metabolism changes in phosphorus-starving plants.

The international collaborative research team comprehensively examined changes in the metabolism of phospholipids in phosphorus-starved conditions using Arabidopsis, a model plant. They focused on phosphocholine, a biosynthetic precursor to phosphatidylcholine, which is a major phospholipid. When plants with reduced phosphocholine biosynthesis capacity were created and placed in phosphorus starvation, the roots were found to be shorter than those in wild-type strains. When phosphocholine is exogenously supplemented, however, the roots recovered their lengths. Similar effects were also seen in growth of leaves. These results revealed that phosphorus-starved plants may be maintaining growth by advancing the synthesis of phosphocholine.

The results of this study are expected to contribute to metabolic engineering for increase of crop production in nutrient-poor soils and for increase of material production by plants.

Original article
Journal of Experimental Botany doi:10.1093/jxb/erab436
A. H. Ngo, A. E. Angkawijaya, Y.-C. Lin, Y. Liu, Y. Nakamura,
"The phospho-base N-methyltransferases PMT1 and PMT2 produce phosphocholine for leaf growth in phosphorus-starved Arabidopsis".
Yuki Nakamura
Team Leader
Plant Lipid Research Team