, Volume 28, Issue 12, pp 1769-1780
Date: 30 Oct 2009

Plant sulfate assimilation genes: redundancy versus specialization

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Sulfur is an essential nutrient present in the amino acids cysteine and methionine, co-enzymes and vitamins. Plants and many microorganisms are able to utilize inorganic sulfate and assimilate it into these compounds. Sulfate assimilation in plants has been extensively studied because of the many functions of sulfur in plant metabolism and stress defense. The pathway is highly regulated in a demand-driven manner. A characteristic feature of this pathway is that most of its components are encoded by small multigene families. This may not be surprising, as several steps of sulfate assimilation occur in multiple cellular compartments, but the composition of the gene families is more complex than simply organellar versus cytosolic forms. Recently, several of these gene families have been investigated in a systematic manner utilizing Arabidopsis reverse genetics tools. In this review, we will assess how far the individual isoforms of sulfate assimilation enzymes possess specific functions and what level of genetic redundancy is retained. We will also compare the genomic organization of sulfate assimilation in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana with other plant species to find common and species-specific features of the pathway.

Communicated by R. Reski.