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Title: Phosphate starvation alters calcium signalling in roots of Arabidopsis thaliana
Author: Matthus, Elsa
ISNI:       0000 0004 7651 4913
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Low bioavailability of phosphate (P) due to low concentration and high immobility in soils is a key limiting factor in crop production. Application of excess amounts of P fertilizer is costly and by no means sustainable, as world-wide P resources are finite and running out. To facilitate the breeding of crops adapted to low-input soils, it is essential to understand the consequences of P deficiency. The second messenger calcium (Ca2+) is known to signal in plant development and stress perception, and most recently its direct role in signalling nutrient availability and deficiency has been partially elucidated. The use of Ca2+ as a signal has to be tightly controlled, as Ca2+ easily complexes with P groups and therefore is highly toxic to cellular P metabolism. It is unknown whether Ca2+ signals P availability or whether signalling is altered under P starvation conditions. The aim of this PhD project was to characterise the use of Ca2+ ions, particularly cytosolic free Ca2+ ([Ca2+]cyt), in stress signalling by P-starved roots of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The hypothesis was that under P starvation and a resulting decreased cellular P pool, the use of [Ca2+]cyt may have to be restricted to avoid cytotoxic complexation of Ca2+ with limited P groups. Employing a range of genetically encoded Ca2+ reporters in Arabidopsis, P starvation but not nitrogen starvation was found to strongly dampen the root [Ca2+]cyt increases evoked by mechanical, salt, osmotic, and oxidative stress as well as by extracellular nucleotides. The strongly altered root [Ca2+]cyt response to extracellular nucleotides was shown to manifest itself during seedling development under chronic P deprivation, but could be reversed by P resupply. Fluorescent imaging elucidated that P-starved roots showed a normal [Ca2+]cyt response to extracellular nucleotides at the apex, but a strongly dampened [Ca2+]cyt response in distal parts of the root tip, correlating with high reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels induced by P starvation. Excluding iron, as well as P, rescued the altered [Ca2+]cyt response, and restored ROS levels to those seen under nutrient-replete conditions. P availability was not signalled through [Ca2+]cyt. In another part of this PhD project, a library of 77 putative Ca2+ channel mutants was compiled and screened for aberrant root hair growth under P starvation conditions. No mutant line showed aberrant root hair growth. These results indicate that P starvation strongly affects stress-induced [Ca2+]cyt modulations. The data generated in this thesis further understanding of how plants can integrate nutritional and environmental cues, adding another layer of complexity to the use of Ca2+ as a signal transducer.
Supervisor: Davies, Julia M. Sponsor: BBSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: plant ; root ; Arabidopsis thaliana ; Arabidopsis ; calcium signalling ; plant nutrition ; phosphate nutrition ; iron nutrition ; reactive oxygen species ; abiotic stress ; extracellular nucleotide signalling ; ATP ; fluorescence microscopy ; ratiometric imaging ; GCaMP3 ; aequorin