Int. J. Dev. Biol. 57: 595 - 610 (2013)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.130268lh
© UPV/EHU Press

Biotechnology of nutrient uptake and assimilation in plants

Damar L. López-Arredondo1, Marco A. Leyva-González1, Fulgencio Alatorre-Cobos2 and Luis Herrera-Estrella*,2

1StelaGenomics México and 2Laboratorio Nacional de Genómica para la Biodiversidad, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Irapuato, Guanajuato, México

ABSTRACT Plants require a complex balance of mineral nutrients to reproduce successfully. Because the availability of many of these nutrients in the soil is compromised by several factors, such as soil pH, cation presence, and microbial activity, crop plants depend directly on nutrients applied as fertilizers to achieve high yields. However, the excessive use of fertilizers is a major environmental concern due to nutrient leaching that causes water eutrophication and promotes toxic algae blooms. This situation generates the urgent need for crop plants with increased nutrient use efficiency and better-designed fertilization schemes. The plant biology revolution triggered by the development of efficient gene transfer systems for plant cells together with the more recent development of next-generation DNA and RNA sequencing and other omics platforms have advanced considerably our understanding on the molecular basis of plant nutrition and how plants respond to nutritional stress. To date, genes encoding sensors, transcription factors, transporters, and metabolic enzymes have been identified as potential candidates to improve nutrient use efficiency. In addition, the study of other genetic resources, such as bacteria and fungi, allows the identification of alternative mechanisms of nutrient assimilation, which are potentially applicable in plants. Although significant progress in this respect has been achieved by conventional breeding, in this review we focus on the biotechnological approaches reported to date aimed at boosting the use of the three most limiting nutrients in the majority of arable lands: nitrogen, phosphorus, and iron.

Keywords:

plant nutrition, macronutrients, grain yield, gene overexpression, bacterial gene, biotechnology

*Corresponding author e-mail: lherrera@ira.cinvestav.mx