Attenuation of phosphate starvation responses by phosphite in Arabidopsis

Plant Physiol. 2001 Nov;127(3):963-72.


When inorganic phosphate is limiting, Arabidopsis has the facultative ability to metabolize exogenous nucleic acid substrates, which we utilized previously to identify insensitive phosphate starvation response mutants in a conditional genetic screen. In this study, we examined the effect of the phosphate analog, phosphite (Phi), on molecular and morphological responses to phosphate starvation. Phi significantly inhibited plant growth on phosphate-sufficient (2 mM) and nucleic acid-containing (2 mM phosphorus) media at concentrations higher than 2.5 mM. However, with respect to suppressing typical responses to phosphate limitation, Phi effects were very similar to those of phosphate. Phosphate starvation responses, which we examined and found to be almost identically affected by both anions, included changes in: (a) the root-to-shoot ratio; (b) root hair formation; (c) anthocyanin accumulation; (d) the activities of phosphate starvation-inducible nucleolytic enzymes, including ribonuclease, phosphodiesterase, and acid phosphatase; and (e) steady-state mRNA levels of phosphate starvation-inducible genes. It is important that induction of primary auxin response genes by indole-3-acetic acid in the presence of growth-inhibitory Phi concentrations suggests that Phi selectively inhibits phosphate starvation responses. Thus, the use of Phi may allow further dissection of phosphate signaling by genetic selection for constitutive phosphate starvation response mutants on media containing organophosphates as the only source of phosphorus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acid Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Anthocyanins / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis / drug effects
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Nucleic Acids / metabolism
  • Phosphates / metabolism*
  • Phosphites / pharmacology*
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Plant Roots / drug effects
  • Plant Roots / growth & development
  • Plant Shoots / drug effects
  • Plant Shoots / growth & development
  • Ribonucleases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Anthocyanins
  • Nucleic Acids
  • Phosphates
  • Phosphites
  • Ribonucleases
  • Acid Phosphatase
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases