Modulation of plant root growth by nitrogen source-defined regulation of polar auxin transport

Krisztina Ötvös, Marco Marconi, Andrea Vega, Jose O’Brien, Alexander Johnson, Rashed Abualia, Livio Antonielli, Juan Carlos Montesinos, Yuzhou Zhang, Shutang Tan, Candela Cuesta, Christina Artner, Eleonore Bouguyon, Alain Gojon, Jirí Friml, Rodrigo A. Gutiérrez, Krzysztof Wabnik, Eva Benková

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Availability of the essential macronutrient nitrogen in soil plays a critical role in plant growth, development, and impacts agricultural productivity. Plants have evolved different strategies for sensing and responding to heterogeneous nitrogen distribution. Modulation of root system architecture, including primary root growth and branching, is among the most essential plant adaptions to ensure adequate nitrogen acquisition. However, the immediate molecular pathways coordinating the adjustment of root growth in response to distinct nitrogen sources, such as nitrate or ammonium, are poorly understood. Here, we show that growth as manifested by cell division and elongation is synchronized by coordinated auxin flux between two adjacent outer tissue layers of the root. This coordination is achieved by nitrate-dependent dephosphorylation of the PIN2 auxin efflux carrier at a previously uncharacterized phosphorylation site, leading to subsequent PIN2 lateralization and thereby regulating auxin flow between adjacent tissues. A dynamic computer model based on our experimental data successfully recapitulates experimental observations. Our study provides mechanistic insights broadening our understanding of root growth mechanisms in dynamic environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere106862
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • auxin transport
  • nutrients
  • post-translational modification
  • protein trafficking
  • root development


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