Transporter networks can serve plant cells as nutrient sensors and mimic transceptor-like behavior

iScience. 2022 Mar 15;25(4):104078. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.104078. eCollection 2022 Apr 15.


Sensing of external mineral nutrient concentrations is essential for plants to colonize environments with a large spectrum of nutrient availability. Here, we analyzed transporter networks in computational cell biology simulations to understand better the initial steps of this sensing process. The networks analyzed were capable of translating the information of changing external nutrient concentrations into cytosolic H+ and Ca2+ signals, two of the most ubiquitous cellular second messengers. The concept emerging from the computational simulations was confirmed in wet-lab experiments. We document in guard cells that alterations in the external KCl concentration were translated into cytosolic H+ and Ca2+ transients as predicted. We show that transporter networks do not only serve their primary task of transport, but can also take on the role of a receptor without requiring conformational changes of a transporter protein. Such transceptor-like phenomena may be quite common in plants.

Keywords: Biological sciences; Mathematical biosciences; Plant biology; Plant nutrition; Plant physiology.