Deficiency of AtGFAT1 activity impairs growth, pollen germination and tolerance to tunicamycin in Arabidopsis

J Exp Bot. 2019 Mar 27;70(6):1775-1787. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erz055.


The hexosamine biosynthetic pathway (HBP) plays essential roles in growth and development in plants. However, insight into the biological function of glutamine:fructose-6-phosphate amidotransferase 1 (GFAT1), mediating the first regulatory step of the HBP, remains unclear in plants. Here, we report the molecular characterization of Arabidopsis AtGFAT1 gene. AtGFAT1 was highly expressed in mature pollen grains, but its expression was not detectable in the rest of the organs. Pollen grains bearing the gfat1-2 knockout allele displayed defects in a polar deposition of pectin and callose in the pollen cell wall, leading to no genetic transmission of the gfat1-2 allele through the male gametophyte. AtGFAT1 overexpression increased glucosamine (GlcN) content and enhanced resistance to tunicamycin (Tm) treatment, while RNAi-mediated suppression reduced GlcN content and resistance to Tm treatment. However, the decrease in Tm resistance by RNAi suppression of AtGFAT1 was recovered by a GlcN supplement. The exogenous GlcN supplement also rescued gfat1-2/gaft1-2 mutant plants, which were otherwise not viable. The gfat1-2/gfat1-2 plants stopped growing at the germination stage on GlcN-free medium, but GlcN supplement allowed wild-type growth of gfat1-2/gfat1-2 plants. In addition, reactive oxygen species production, cell death and a decrease in protein N-glycosylation were observed in gfat1-2/gaft1-2 mutant plants grown on GlcN-free medium, whereas these aberrant defects were not detectable on GlcN-sufficient medium. Taken together, these results show that the reduction of protein N-glycosylation was at least partially responsible for many aberrant phenotypes in growth and development as well as the response to Tm treatment caused by AtGFAT1 deficiency in Arabidopsis.

Keywords: Arabidopsis; GFAT; UDP-GlcNAc; endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress; hexosamine biosynthesis pathway; pollen germination; pollen-dependent transmission defect; protein N-glycosylation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / drug effects
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Germination / drug effects*
  • Glutamine-Fructose-6-Phosphate Transaminase (Isomerizing) / deficiency*
  • Glutamine-Fructose-6-Phosphate Transaminase (Isomerizing) / genetics
  • Glycosylation / drug effects*
  • Pollen / drug effects
  • Pollen / growth & development*
  • Tunicamycin / administration & dosage*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Tunicamycin
  • AT3G24090 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Glutamine-Fructose-6-Phosphate Transaminase (Isomerizing)