Sulfur assimilation and the role of sulfur in plant metabolism: a survey

Photosynth Res. 2004;79(3):331-48. doi: 10.1023/B:PRES.0000017196.95499.11.


Sulfur occurs in two major amino-acids, cysteine (Cys) and methionine (Met), essential for the primary and secondary metabolism of the plant. Cys, as the first carbon/nitrogen-reduced sulfur product resulting from the sulfate assimilation pathway, serves as a sulfur donor for Met, glutathione, vitamins, co-factors, and sulfur compounds that play a major role in the growth and development of plant cells. This sulfur imprinting occurs in a myriad of fundamental processes, from photosynthesis to carbon and nitrogen metabolism. Cys and Met occur in proteins, with the former playing a wide range of functions in proteins catalysis. In addition, the sulfur atom in proteins forms part of a redox buffer, as for glutathione, through specific detoxification/protection mechanisms. In this review, a survey of sulfur assimilation from sulfate to Cys, Met and glutathione is presented with highlights on open questions on their respective biosynthetic pathways and regulations that derived from recent findings. These are addressed at the biochemical and molecular levels with respect to the fate of Cys and Met throughout the plant-cell metabolism.