Nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is a multigenic quantitative trait, involving many N-responsive genes/processes that are yet to be fully characterized. Microarray analysis of early nitrate response in excised leaves of japonica rice revealed 6688 differentially expressed genes (DEGs), including 2640 hitherto unreported across multiple functional categories. They include transporters, enzymes involved in primary/secondary metabolism, transcription factors (TFs), EF-hand containing calcium binding proteins, hormone metabolism/signaling and methytransferases. Some DEGs belonged to hitherto unreported processes viz. alcohol, lipid and trehalose metabolism, mitochondrial membrane organization, protein targeting and stomatal opening. 1158 DEGs were associated with growth physiology and grain yield or phenotypic traits for NUE. We identified seven DEGs for shoot apical meristem, 66 for leaf/culm/root, 31 for tiller, 70 for heading date/inflorescence/spikelet/panicle, 144 for seed and 78 for yield. RT-qPCR validated nitrate regulation of 31 DEGs belonging to various important functional categories/traits. Physiological validation of N-dose responsive changes in plant development revealed that relative to 1.5 mM, 15 mM nitrate significantly increased stomatal density, stomatal conductance and transpiration rate. Further, root/shoot growth, number of tillers and grain yield declined and panicle emergence/heading date delayed, despite increased photosynthetic rate. We report the binding sites of diverse classes of TFs such as WRKY, MYB, HMG etc., in the 1 kb up-stream regions of 6676 nitrate-responsive DEGs indicating their role in regulating nitrate response/NUE. Together, these findings expand the repertoire of genes and processes involved in genomewide nitrate response in rice and reveal their physiological, phenotypic and agronomic implications for NUE.
Mandal, VK., Jangam, AP., Chakraborty, N., and Raghuram, N.
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