Excess sterols disrupt plant cellular activity by inducing stress-responsive gene expression

J Plant Res. 2020 May;133(3):383-392. doi: 10.1007/s10265-020-01181-4. Epub 2020 Mar 17.


Sterols are important lipid constituents of cellular membranes in plants and other organisms. Sterol homeostasis is under strict regulation in plants because excess sterols negatively impact plant growth. HIGH STEROL ESTER 1 (HISE1) functions as a negative regulator of sterol accumulation. If sterol production exceeds a certain threshold, excess sterols are detoxified via conversion to sterol esters by PHOSPHOLIPID STEROL ACYL TRANSFERASE 1 (PSAT1). We previously reported that the Arabidopsis thaliana double mutant hise1-3 psat1-2 shows 1.5-fold higher sterol content than the wild type and consequently a severe growth defect. However, the specific defects caused by excess sterol accumulation in plants remain unknown. In this study, we investigated the effects of excess sterols on plants by analyzing the phenotypes and transcriptomes of the hise1-3 psat1-2 double mutant. Transcriptomic analysis revealed that 435 genes were up-regulated in hise1-3 psat1-2 leaves compared with wild-type leaves. Gene ontology (GO) enrichment analysis revealed that abiotic and biotic stress-responsive genes including RESPONSIVE TO DESICCATION 29B/LOW-TEMPERATURE-INDUCED 65 (RD29B/LTI65) and COLD-REGULATED 15A (COR15A) were up-regulated in hise1-3 psat1-2 leaves compared with wild-type leaves. Expression levels of senescence-related genes were also much higher in hise1-3 psat1-2 leaves than in wild-type leaves. hise1-3 psat1-2 leaves showed early senescence, suggesting that excess sterols induce senescence of leaves. In the absence of sucrose, hise1-3 psat1-2 exhibited defects in seedling growth and root elongation. Together, our data suggest that excess sterol accumulation disrupts cellular activities of vegetative organs including leaves and roots, resulting in multiple damages to plants.

Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; HIGH STEROL ESTER 1; PHOSPHOLIPID STEROL ACYL TRANSFERASE 1; RNA sequencing; Sterols.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Mutation
  • Sterols / metabolism*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Sterols