Plant growth and development are strongly influenced by the availability of nutrients in the soil solution. Among them, phosphorus (P) is one of the most essential and most limiting macro-elements for plants. In the environment, plants are often confronted with P starvation as a result of extremely low concentrations of soluble inorganic phosphate (Pi) in the soil. To cope with these conditions, plants have developed a wide spectrum of mechanisms aimed at increasing P use efficiency. At the molecular level, recent studies have shown that several proteins carrying the SPX domain are essential for maintaining Pi homeostasis in plants. The SPX domain is found in numerous eukaryotic proteins, including several proteins from the yeast PHO regulon, involved in maintaining Pi homeostasis. In plants, proteins harboring the SPX domain are classified into four families based on the presence of additional domains in their structure, namely the SPX, SPX-EXS, SPX-MFS and SPX-RING families. In this review, we highlight the recent findings regarding the key roles of the proteins containing the SPX domain in phosphate signaling, as well as providing further research directions in order to improve our knowledge on P nutrition in plants, thus enabling the generation of plants with better P use efficiency.
© 2012 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2012 New Phytologist Trust.