Alternative Splicing Plays a Critical Role in Maintaining Mineral Nutrient Homeostasis in Rice (Oryza sativa)

Alternative splicing (AS) of pre-mRNAs promotes transcriptome and proteome diversity and plays important roles in a wide range of biological processes. However, the role of AS in maintaining mineral nutrient homeostasis in plants is largely unknown. To clarify this role, we obtained whole transcriptome RNA sequencing data from rice (Oryza sativa) roots grown in the presence or absence of several mineral nutrients (Fe, Zn, Cu, Mn, and P). Our systematic analysis revealed 13,291 alternatively spliced genes, representing ~53.3% of the multiexon genes in the rice genome. As the overlap between differentially expressed genes and differentially alternatively spliced genes is small, a molecular understanding of the plant’s response to mineral deficiency is limited by analyzing differentially expressed genes alone. We found that the targets of AS are highly nutrient-specific. To verify the role of AS in mineral nutrition, we characterized mutants in genes encoding Ser/Arg (SR) proteins that function in AS. We identified several SR proteins as critical regulators of Zn, Mn, and P nutrition and showed that three SR protein-encoding genes regulate P uptake and remobilization between leaves and shoots of rice, demonstrating that AS has a key role in regulating mineral nutrient homeostasis in rice.

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