Control of sulfur partitioning between primary and secondary metabolism


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Sulfur is an essential nutrient for all organisms. Plants take up most sulfur as inorganic sulfate, reduce it and incorporate it into cysteine during primary sulfate assimilation. However, some of the sulfate is partitioned into the secondary metabolism to synthesize a variety of sulfated compounds. The two pathways of sulfate utilization branch after activation of sulfate to adenosine 5′-phosphosulfate (APS). Recently we showed that the enzyme APS kinase limits the availability of activated sulfate for the synthesis of sulfated secondary compounds in Arabidopsis. To further dissect the control of sulfur partitioning between the primary and secondary metabolism, we analysed plants in which activities of enzymes that use APS as a substrate were increased or reduced. Reduction in APS kinase activity led to reduced levels of glucosinolates as a major class of sulfated secondary metabolites and an increased concentration of thiols, products of primary reduction. However, over-expression of this gene does not affect the levels of glucosinolates. Over-expression of APS reductase had no effect on glucosinolate levels but did increase thiol levels, but neither glucosinolate nor thiol levels were affected in mutants lacking the APR2 isoform of this enzyme. Measuring the flux through sulfate assimilation using [35S]sulfate confirmed the larger flow of sulfur to primary assimilation when APS kinase activity was reduced. Thus, at least in Arabidopsis, the interplay between APS reductase and APS kinase is important for sulfur partitioning between the primary and secondary metabolism.