Systems rebalancing of metabolism in response to sulfur deprivation, as revealed by metabolome analysis of arabidopsis plants

Victoria J. Nikiforova, Joachim Kopka, Vladimir Tolstikov, Oliver Fiehn, Laura Hopkins, Malcolm J. Hawkesford, Holger Hesse, Rainer Hoefgen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

272 Scopus citations


Sulfur is an essential macroelement in plant and animal nutrition. Plants assimilate inorganic sulfate into two sulfur-containing amino acids, cysteine and methionine. Low supply of sulfate leads to decreased sulfur pools within plant tissues. As sulfur-related metabolites represent an integral part of plant metabolism with multiple interactions, sulfur deficiency stress induces a number of adaptive responses, which must be coordinated. To reveal the coordinating network of adaptations to sulfur deficiency, metabolite profiling of Arabidopsis has been undertaken. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques revealed the response patterns of 6,023 peaks of nonredundant ion traces and relative concentration levels of 134 nonredundant compounds of known chemical structure. Here, we provide a catalogue of the detected metabolic changes and reconstruct the coordinating network of their mutual influences. The observed decrease in biomass, as well as in levels of proteins, chlorophylls, and total RNA, gives evidence for a general reduction of metabolic activity under conditions of depleted sulfur supply. This is achieved by a systemic adjustment of metabolism involving the major metabolic pathways. Sulfur/carbon/nitrogen are partitioned by accumulation of metabolites along the pathway O-acetylserine to serine to glycine, and are further channeled together with the nitrogen-rich compound glutamine into allantoin. Mutual influences between sulfur assimilation, nitrogen imbalance, lipid breakdown, purine metabolism, and enhanced photorespiration associated with sulfur-deficiency stress are revealed in this study. These responses may be assembled into a global scheme of metabolic regulation induced by sulfur nutritional stress, which optimizes resources for seed production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-318
Number of pages15
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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