Nitrogen (N) is probably the most important macronutrient and its scarcity limits plant growth, development and fitness. N starvation response has been largely studied by transcriptomic analyses, but little is known about the role of alternative polyadenylation (APA) in such response. In this work, we show that N starvation modifies poly(A) usage in a large number of transcripts, some of them mediated by FIP1, a component of the polyadenylation machinery. Interestingly, the number of mRNAs isoforms with poly(A) tags located in protein-coding regions or 5'-UTRs significantly increases in response to N starvation. The set of genes affected by APA in response to N deficiency is enriched in N-metabolism, oxidation-reduction processes, response to stresses, and hormone responses, among others. A hormone profile analysis shows that the levels of salicylic acid (SA), a phytohormone that reduces nitrate accumulation and root growth, increase significantly upon N starvation. Meta-analyses of APA-affected and fip1-2-deregulated genes indicate a connection between the nitrogen starvation response and salicylic acid (SA) signaling. Genetic analyses show that SA may be important for preventing the overgrowth of the root system in low N environments. This work provides new insights on how plants interconnect different pathways, such as defense-related hormonal signaling and the regulation of genomic information by APA, to fine-tune the response to low N availability.
Keywords: alternative polyadenylation; nitrogen starvation; root development; salicylic acid.