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Lateral roots, responsible for water and nutrient uptake, maintain nonvertical angles throughout development. Soil phosphate is one limiting nutrient for plant growth that is known to induce changes to root system architecture, such as increased lateral root formation. This study seeks to determine whether phosphate concentration affects lateral root orientation in addition to its previously described influences on root architecture. Images of intact Arabidopsis root systems were recorded for 24 h, and lateral root tip angles were measured for wild-type and mutant pgm-1 and pin3-1 roots on a full or low phosphate medium. Setpoint angles of unstimulated root systems were determined, as were gravitropic responses of lateral roots over time. The root system setpoint angles of wild-type and mutant pin3-1 roots showed a shift toward a more vertical orientation on low orthophosphate (Pi) medium. The gravitropic responses of both pgm-1 and pin3-1 roots on low Pi medium was elevated relative to control Pi medium. Mutations in two phosphate transporters with high levels of expression in the root showed a gravitropic response similar to wild-type roots grown on low Pi, supporting a role for Pi status in regulating lateral root gravitropism. Lateral root orientation and gravitropism are affected by Pi status and may provide an important additional parameter for describing root responses to low Pi. The data also support the conclusion that gravitropic setpoint angle reacts to nutrient status and is under dynamic regulation.


Hanwen Bai, Bhavna Murali, Kevin Barber, Chris Wolverton. Low phosphate alters lateral root setpoint angle and gravitropism. American journal of botany. 2013 Jan;100(1):175-82

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PMID: 23125433

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