Enhanced phosphorus uptake in transgenic tobacco plants that overproduce citrate

Nat Biotechnol. 2000 Apr;18(4):450-3. doi: 10.1038/74531.


Phosphorus (P) is one of the most important nutrients limiting agricultural production worldwide. In acid and alkaline soils, which make up over 70% of the world's arable land, P forms insoluble compounds that are not available for plant use. To reduce P deficiencies and ensure plant productivity, nearly 30 million tons of P fertilizer are applied every year. Up to 80% of the applied P fertilizer is lost because it becomes immobile and unavailable for plant uptake. Therefore, the development of novel plant varieties more efficient in the use of P represents the best alternative to reduce the use of P fertilizers and achieve a more sustainable agriculture. We show here that the ability to use insoluble P compounds can be significantly enhanced by engineering plants to produce more organic acids. Our results show that when compared to the controls, citrate-overproducing plants yield more leaf and fruit biomass when grown under P-limiting conditions and require less P fertilizer to achieve optimal growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Caulimovirus / genetics
  • Citrate (si)-Synthase / genetics*
  • Citrate (si)-Synthase / metabolism*
  • Citrates / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Phosphates / metabolism*
  • Phosphorus / metabolism*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism*
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / enzymology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Rhizobium
  • Soil
  • Tobacco / enzymology
  • Tobacco / genetics
  • Tobacco / physiology*


  • Citrates
  • Phosphates
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Soil
  • Phosphorus
  • Citrate (si)-Synthase