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MdATG18a Overexpression Improves Tolerance to Nitrogen Deficiency and Regulates Anthocyanin Accumulation through Increased Autophagy in Transgenic Apple

Xun Sun, Xin Jia, Liuqing Huo, Runmin Che, Xiaoqing Gong, Ping Wang, Fengwang Ma.

Plant Cell Environ.

DOI: 10.1111/pce.13110

 

 

Abstract: Nitrogen (N) availability is an essential factor for plant growth. Recycling and remobilization of N have strong impacts on crop yield and quality under N deficiency. Autophagy is a critical nutrient-recycling process that facilitates remobilization under starvation. We previously showed that an important AuTophaGy (ATG) protein from apple, MdATG18a, has a positive role in drought tolerance. In this study, we explored its biological role in response to low-N. Overexpression of MdATG18a in both Arabidopsis and apple improved tolerance to N-depletion and caused a greater accumulation of anthocyanin. The increased anthocyanin concentration in transgenic apple was possibly due to up-regulating flavonoid biosynthetic and regulatory genes ( MdCHI , MdCHS , MdANS , MdPAL, MdUFGT and MdMYB1 ), and higher soluble sugars concentration. MdATG18a overexpression enhanced starch degradation with up-regulating amylase gene ( MdAM1 ), and up-regulated sugar metabolism related genes ( MdSS1 , MdHXKs , MdFK1 and MdNINVs ). Furthermore, MdATG18a functioned in nitrate uptake and assimilation by up-regulating nitrate reductase MdNIA2 and three high-affinity nitrate transporters MdNRT2.1/2.4/2.5 . MdATG18a overexpression also elevated other important MdATG genes expression and autophagosomes formation under N-depletion, which play key contributions to above changes. Together these results demonstrate that overexpression of MdATG18a enhances tolerance to N-deficiencies and plays positive roles in anthocyanin biosynthesis through greater autophagic activity.