• Arabidopsis thaliana;
  • phosphorus;
  • root hair density


We characterized the response of root hair density to phosphorus (P) availability in Arabidopsis thaliana. Arabidopsis plants were grown aseptically in growth media with varied phosphorus concentrations, ranging from 1 mmol m3 to 2000 mmol m3 phosphorus. Root hair density (number of root hairs per mm of root length) was analysed starting at 7 d of growth. Root hair density was highly regulated by phosphorus availability, increasing significantly in roots exposed to low-phosphorus availability. The initial root hairs produced by the radicle were not sensitive to phosphorus availability, but began to respond after 9 d of growth. Root hair density was about five times greater in low phosphorus (1 mmol m3) than in high phosphorus (1000 mmol m3) media. Root hair density decreased logarithmically in response to increasing phosphorus concentrations within that range. Root hair density also increased in response to deficiencies of several other nutrients, but not as strongly as to low phosphorus. Indoleacetic acid (IAA), the auxin transport inhibitor 2-(p-chlorophenoxy)-2-methylpropionic acid (CMPA), the ethylene precursor 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC), and the ethylene synthesis inhibitor amino-oxyacetic acid (AOA) all increased root hair density under high phosphorus but had very little effect under low phosphorus. Low phosphorus significantly changed root anatomy, causing a 9% increase in root diameter, a 31% decrease in the cross-sectional area of individual trichoblasts, a 40% decrease in the cross-sectional area of individual atrichoblasts, and 45% more cortical cells in cross-section. The larger number of cortical cells and smaller epidermal cell size in low phosphorus roots increased the number of trichoblast files from eight to 12. Two-thirds of increased root hair density in low phosphorus roots was caused by increased likelihood of trichoblasts to form hairs, and 33% of the increase was accounted for by changes in low phosphorus root anatomy resulting in an increased number of trichoblast files. These results show that phosphorus availability can fundamentally alter root anatomy, leading to changes in root hair density, which are presumably important for phosphorus acquisition.