Comparative Analysis of Tissue-Specific Transcriptomic Responses to Nitrogen Stress in Spinach (Spinacia Oleracea)

PLoS One. 2020 May 6;15(5):e0232011. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0232011. eCollection 2020.


Nitrogen (N) is critical to the growth and productivity of crops. To understand the molecular mechanisms influenced by N stress, we used RNA-Sequencing (RNA-Seq) to analyze differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in root and leaf tissues of spinach. N stress negatively influenced photosynthesis, biomass accumulation, amino acid profiles, and partitioning of N across tissues. RNA-seq analysis revealed that N stress caused most transcriptomic changes in roots, identifying 1,346 DEGs. High-affinity nitrate transporters (NRT2.1, NRT2.5) and glutamine amidotransferase (GAT1) genes were strongly induced in roots in response to N deplete and replete conditions, respectively. GO and KEGG analyses revealed that the functions associated with metabolic pathways and nutrient reservoir activity were enriched due to N stress. Whereas KEGG pathway enrichment analysis indicated the upregulation of DEGs associated with DNA replication, pyrimidine, and purine metabolism in the presence of high N in leaf tissue. A subset of transcription factors comprising bHLH, MYB, WRKY, and AP2/ERF family members was over-represented in both tissues in response to N perturbation. Interesting DEGs associated with N uptake, amino acid metabolism, hormonal pathway, carbon metabolism, along with transcription factors, were highlighted. The results provide valuable information about the underlying molecular processes in response to N stress in spinach and; could serve as a resource for functional analysis of candidate genes/pathways and enhancement of nitrogen use efficiency.

Grant support

VJ received funding from the Specialty Crop Multi-State Grant Agreement TX-SCM-17-04 from the Texas Department of Agriculture.