Nitrogen deficiency enhances expression of specific MYB and bHLH transcription factors and accumulation of end products in the flavonoid pathway

Planta. 2007 Apr;225(5):1245-53. doi: 10.1007/s00425-006-0414-x. Epub 2006 Oct 20.


Expression of regulators of the flavonoid pathway was examined in Arabidopsis thaliana wild type and pap1D plants, the latter being a T-DNA activation-tagged line over-expressing the PAP1/MYB75 gene which is a positive regulator of the pathway. Anthocyanin accumulation was induced in plants grown in soil, on agar plates, and hydroponics by withdrawing nitrogen from the growth medium. The agar-grown seedlings and rosette stage plants in hydroponics were further explored, and showed that nitrogen deficiency resulted in the accumulation of not only anthocyanins, but also flavonols. The examination of transcript levels showed that the general flavonoid pathway regulators PAP1 and PAP2 were up-regulated in response to nitrogen deficiency in wild type as well as pap1D plants. Interestingly, PAP2 responded much stronger to nitrogen deficiency than PAP1, 200- and 6-fold increase in transcript levels, respectively, for wild-type seedlings. In rosette leaves the increase was 900-fold for PAP2 and 6-fold for PAP1. At least three different bHLH domain transcription factors promote anthocyanin synthesis, and transcripts for one of these, i.e. GL3 were found to be sixfold enhanced by nitrogen deficiency in rosette leaves. The MYB12 transcription factor, known to regulate flavonol synthesis, was slightly induced by nitrogen deficiency in seedlings. In conclusion, four out of eight regulators involved in the flavonoid pathway showed an enhanced expression from 2 to 1,000 times in response to nitrogen deficiency. Together with MYB factors, especially PAP2, GL3 appears to be the BHLH partner for anthocyanin accumulation in response to nitrogen deficiency.

MeSH terms

  • Agar
  • Anthocyanins / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Flavonoids / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Nitrogen / deficiency*
  • Pancreatitis-Associated Proteins
  • Seedlings / genetics
  • Seedlings / metabolism
  • Soil
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • Anthocyanins
  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Flavonoids
  • Myb protein, Arabidopsis
  • Pancreatitis-Associated Proteins
  • REG3A protein, human
  • Soil
  • Transcription Factors
  • Agar
  • Nitrogen