Oxygen sensing in plants is mediated by an N-end rule pathway for protein destabilization

Nature. 2011 Oct 23;479(7373):419-22. doi: 10.1038/nature10536.


The majority of eukaryotic organisms rely on molecular oxygen for respiratory energy production. When the supply of oxygen is compromised, a variety of acclimation responses are activated to reduce the detrimental effects of energy depletion. Various oxygen-sensing mechanisms have been described that are thought to trigger these responses, but they each seem to be kingdom specific and no sensing mechanism has been identified in plants until now. Here we show that one branch of the ubiquitin-dependent N-end rule pathway for protein degradation, which is active in both mammals and plants, functions as an oxygen-sensing mechanism in Arabidopsis thaliana. We identified a conserved amino-terminal amino acid sequence of the ethylene response factor (ERF)-transcription factor RAP2.12 to be dedicated to an oxygen-dependent sequence of post-translational modifications, which ultimately lead to degradation of RAP2.12 under aerobic conditions. When the oxygen concentration is low-as during flooding-RAP2.12 is released from the plasma membrane and accumulates in the nucleus to activate gene expression for hypoxia acclimation. Our discovery of an oxygen-sensing mechanism opens up new possibilities for improving flooding tolerance in crops.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / drug effects
  • Aerobiosis / drug effects
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anaerobiosis / drug effects
  • Arabidopsis / drug effects*
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / chemistry
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Hypoxia / drug effects
  • Cell Hypoxia / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Nucleus / drug effects
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Conserved Sequence
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Floods
  • Immersion
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Oxygen / pharmacology*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational / drug effects
  • Protein Transport / drug effects
  • Proteolysis / drug effects*
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • RAP2.12 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Transcription Factors
  • Oxygen

Associated data

  • GENBANK/JF968115
  • GENBANK/JF968116
  • GENBANK/JF968117
  • GENBANK/JF968118
  • GENBANK/JF968119
  • GEO/GSE29187