Nitrate (N) response is modulated by light, but not understood from a genome-wide perspective. Comparative transcriptomic analyses of nitrate response in light-grown and etiolated rice leaves revealed 303 and 249 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) respectively. A majority of them were exclusive to light (270) or dark (216) condition, whereas 33 DEGs were common. The latter may constitute response to N signaling regardless of light. Functional annotation and pathway enrichment analyses of the DEGs showed that nitrate primarily modulates conserved N signaling and metabolism in light, whereas oxidation–reduction processes, pentose-phosphate shunt, starch-, sucrose- and glycerolipid-metabolisms in the dark. Differential N-regulation of these pathways by light could be attributed to the involvement of distinctive sets of transporters, transcription factors, enriched cis-acting motifs in the promoters of DEGs as well as differential modulation of N-responsive transcriptional regulatory networks in light and dark. Sub-clustering of DEGs-associated protein–protein interaction network constructed using experimentally validated interactors revealed that nitrate regulates a molecular complex consisting of nitrite reductase, ferredoxin-NADP reductase and ferredoxin. This complex is associated with flowering time, revealing a meeting point for N-regulation of N-response and N-use efficiency. Together, our results provide novel insights into distinct pathways of N-signaling in light and dark conditions.
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