Iron homeostasis in Arabidopsis thaliana: transcriptomic analyses reveal novel FIT-regulated genes, iron deficiency marker genes and functional gene networks

BMC Plant Biol. 2016 Oct 3;16(1):211. doi: 10.1186/s12870-016-0899-9.


Background: FIT (FER-LIKE IRON DEFICIENCY-INDUCED TRANSCRIPTION FACTOR) is the central regulator of iron uptake in Arabidopsis thaliana roots. We performed transcriptome analyses of six day-old seedlings and roots of six week-old plants using wild type, a fit knock-out mutant and a FIT over-expression line grown under iron-sufficient or iron-deficient conditions. We compared genes regulated in a FIT-dependent manner depending on the developmental stage of the plants. We assembled a high likelihood dataset which we used to perform co-expression and functional analysis of the most stably iron deficiency-induced genes.

Results: 448 genes were found FIT-regulated. Out of these, 34 genes were robustly FIT-regulated in root and seedling samples and included 13 novel FIT-dependent genes. Three hundred thirty-one genes showed differential regulation in response to the presence and absence of FIT only in the root samples, while this was the case for 83 genes in the seedling samples. We assembled a virtual dataset of iron-regulated genes based on a total of 14 transcriptomic analyses of iron-deficient and iron-sufficient wild-type plants to pinpoint the best marker genes for iron deficiency and analyzed this dataset in depth. Co-expression analysis of this dataset revealed 13 distinct regulons part of which predominantly contained functionally related genes.

Conclusions: We could enlarge the list of FIT-dependent genes and discriminate between genes that are robustly FIT-regulated in roots and seedlings or only in one of those. FIT-regulated genes were mostly induced, few of them were repressed by FIT. With the analysis of a virtual dataset we could filter out and pinpoint new candidates among the most reliable marker genes for iron deficiency. Moreover, co-expression and functional analysis of this virtual dataset revealed iron deficiency-induced and functionally distinct regulons.

Keywords: Arabidopsis; Differential gene expression; FIT; Iron homeostasis; Microarray; Plants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Genetic Markers
  • Homeostasis
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • FIT1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Genetic Markers
  • Transcription Factors
  • Iron