Natural variation in Arabidopsis thaliana reveals shoot ionome, biomass, and gene expression changes as biomarkers for zinc deficiency tolerance

Ana Carolina A L Campos, Willem Kruijer, Ross Alexander, Robert C Akkers, John Danku, David E Salt, Mark G M Aarts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Zinc (Zn) is an essential nutrient for plants, with a crucial role as a cofactor for many enzymes. Approximately one-third of the global arable land area is Zn deficient, leading to reduced crop yield and quality. To improve crop tolerance to Zn deficiency, it is important to understand the mechanisms plants have adopted to tolerate suboptimal Zn supply. In this study, physiological and molecular aspects of traits related to Zn deficiency tolerance were examined in a panel of 19 Arabidopsis thaliana accessions. Accessions showed a larger variation for shoot biomass than for Zn concentration, indicating that they have different requirements for their minimal Zn concentration required for growth. Accessions with a higher tolerance to Zn deficiency showed an increased expression of the Zn deficiency-responsive genes ZIP4 and IRT3 in comparison with Zn deficiency-sensitive accessions. Changes in the shoot ionome, as a result of the Zn treatment of the plants, were used to build a multinomial logistic regression model able to distinguish plants regarding their Zn nutritional status. This set of biomarkers, reflecting the A. thaliana response to Zn deficiency and Zn deficiency tolerance, can be useful for future studies aiming to improve the performance and Zn status of crop plants grown under suboptimal Zn concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3643-3656
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

We gratefully acknowledge Maarten Koornneef for his critical comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. During the review and publication process of this manuscript Dr John Danku died. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and colleagues and his untimely death is a significant loss to the field of ionomics. This work was supported by the Centre for BioSystems Genomics and grant 93512008 of the ZonMWZenith program, both initiatives under the auspices of the Netherlands Genomics Initiative, and by the EU-COST Action FA0905.


  • Journal Article
  • biofortification
  • biomarker
  • mineral concentration
  • plant ionome
  • shoot growth
  • zinc usage index


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