Transcriptome analysis of sulfur depletion in Arabidopsis thaliana: interlacing of biosynthetic pathways provides response specificity

Plant J. 2003 Feb;33(4):633-50. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-313x.2003.01657.x.


Higher plants assimilate inorganic sulfate into cysteine, which is subsequently converted to methionine, and into a variety of other sulfur-containing organic compounds. To resist sulfur deficiency, plants must demonstrate physiological flexibility: the expression of an extensive set of genes and gene regulators that act in the affected pathways or signalling cascades must be delicately tuned in response to environmental challenges. To elucidate this network of interactions, we have applied an array hybridisation/transcript profiling method to Arabidopsis plants subjected to 6, 10 and 13 days of constitutive and induced sulfur starvation. The temporal expression behaviour of approximately 7200 non-redundant genes was analysed simultaneously. The experiment was designed in a way to identify statistically significant changes of gene expression based on sufficient numbers of repeated hybridisations performed with five uniform pools of plant material. The expression profiles were processed to select differentially expressed genes. Among the 1507 sulfur-responsive clones implicated in this way, 632 genes responded specifically to sulfur deficiency by significant over-expression. The sulfur-responsive genes were grouped according to functional categories or biosynthetic pathways. As expected, genes of the sulfur assimilation pathway were altered in expression. Furthermore, genes involved in flavonoid, auxin, and jasmonate biosynthesis pathways were upregulated in conditions of sulfur deficiency. Based on the correlative analysis of gene expression patterns, we suggest that a complex co-ordination of systematic responses to sulfur depletion is provided via integration of flavonoid, auxin and jasmonate pathway elements. Plait concept for transduction of specificity via the main non-specific signalling stream is proposed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics
  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Amino Acids, Sulfur / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Cyclopentanes / metabolism
  • Cysteine / metabolism
  • Flavonoids / biosynthesis
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / drug effects
  • Genes, Plant / genetics
  • Indoleacetic Acids / biosynthesis
  • Methionine / metabolism
  • Oxylipins
  • Phenotype
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Sulfur / deficiency*
  • Sulfur / metabolism
  • Sulfur / pharmacology


  • Amino Acids, Sulfur
  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Cyclopentanes
  • Flavonoids
  • Indoleacetic Acids
  • Oxylipins
  • jasmonic acid
  • Sulfur
  • Methionine
  • Cysteine