Synergistic effects of abiotic stresses in plants: a case study of nitrogen limitation and saturating light intensity in Arabidopsis thaliana

Itay Cohen, Tal Rapaport, Vered Chalifa-Caspi, Shimon Rachmilevitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

Under natural conditions, plants are regularly exposed to combinations of stress factors. A common example is the conjunction between nitrogen (N) deficiency and excess light. The combined effect of stress factors is often ignored in studies using controlled conditions, possibly resulting in misleading conclusions. To address this issue, the present study examined the physiological behavior of Arabidopsis thaliana under the effect of varying nitrogen levels and light intensities. The joint influence of low N and excess light had an adverse effect on plant growth, chlorophyll and anthocyanin concentrations, photochemical capacity and the abundance of proteins involved in carbon assimilation and antioxidative metabolism. In contrast, no adverse physiological responses were observed for plants under either nitrogen limitation or high light (HL) intensity conditions (i.e. single stress). The underlying mechanisms for the increased growth in conditions of HL and sufficient nitrogen were a combination of chlorophyll accumulation and an increased number of proteins involved in C3 carbon assimilation, amino acids biosynthesis and chloroplast development. In contrast, combined stress conditions shifts plants from growth to survival by displaying anthocyanin accumulation and an increased number of proteins involved in catabolism of lipids and amino acids as energy substrates. Ultimately switching plants development from growth to survival. Our results suggest that an assessment of the physiological response to the combined effect of multiple stresses cannot be directly extrapolated from the physiological response to a single stress. Specifically, the synergistic interaction between N deficiency and saturating light in Arabidopsis plants could not have been modeled via only one of the stress factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-767
Number of pages13
JournalPhysiologia Plantarum
Volume165
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology

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