Root developmental adaptation to phosphate starvation: better safe than sorry

Trends Plant Sci. 2011 Aug;16(8):442-50. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2011.05.006.


Phosphorus is a crucial component of major organic molecules such as nucleic acids, ATP and membrane phospholipids. It is present in soils in the form of inorganic phosphate (Pi), which has low availability and poor mobility. To cope with Pi limitations, plants have evolved complex adaptive responses that include morphological and physiological modifications. This review describes how the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana adapts its root system architecture to phosphate deficiency through inhibition of primary root growth, increase in lateral root formation and growth and production of root hairs, which all promote topsoil foraging. A better understanding of plant adaptation to low phosphate will open the way to increased phosphorus use efficiency by crops. Such an improvement is needed in order to adjust how we manage limited phosphorus stocks and to reduce the disastrous environmental effects of phosphate fertilizers overuse.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Fertilizers / economics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Phosphates / deficiency
  • Phosphates / metabolism*
  • Phosphorus / deficiency
  • Phosphorus / metabolism
  • Plant Roots / genetics
  • Plant Roots / growth & development*
  • Plant Roots / physiology


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Fertilizers
  • Phosphates
  • Phosphorus