SPX1 is a phosphate-dependent inhibitor of Phosphate Starvation Response 1 in Arabidopsis

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Oct 14;111(41):14947-52. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1404654111. Epub 2014 Sep 30.


To cope with growth in low-phosphate (Pi) soils, plants have evolved adaptive responses that involve both developmental and metabolic changes. Phosphate Starvation Response 1 (PHR1) and related transcription factors play a central role in the control of Pi starvation responses (PSRs). How Pi levels control PHR1 activity, and thus PSRs, remains to be elucidated. Here, we identify a direct Pi-dependent inhibitor of PHR1 in Arabidopsis, SPX1, a nuclear protein that shares the SPX domain with yeast Pi sensors and with several Pi starvation signaling proteins from plants. Double mutation of SPX1 and of a related gene, SPX2, resulted in molecular and physiological changes indicative of increased PHR1 activity in plants grown in Pi-sufficient conditions or after Pi refeeding of Pi-starved plants but had only a limited effect on PHR1 activity in Pi-starved plants. These data indicate that SPX1 and SPX2 have a cellular Pi-dependent inhibitory effect on PHR1. Coimmunoprecipitation assays showed that the SPX1/PHR1 interaction in planta is highly Pi-dependent. DNA-binding and pull-down assays with bacterially expressed, affinity-purified tagged SPX1 and ΔPHR1 proteins showed that SPX1 is a competitive inhibitor of PHR1 binding to its recognition sequence, and that its efficiency is highly dependent on the presence of Pi or phosphite, a nonmetabolizable Pi analog that can repress PSRs. The relative strength of the SPX1/PHR1 interaction is thus directly influenced by Pi, providing a link between Pi perception and signaling.

Keywords: phosphate sensor; phosphate starvation signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / drug effects
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • DNA, Plant / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phosphates / pharmacology*
  • Protein Binding / drug effects
  • Transcription Factors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • DNA, Plant
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • PHR1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Phosphates
  • SPX1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Transcription Factors

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE52046