Medicago SPX1 and SPX3 regulate phosphate homeostasis, mycorrhizal colonization, and arbuscule degradation

Wang, Peng; Snijders, Roxane; Kohlen, Wouter; Liu, Jieyu; Bisseling, Ton; Limpens, Erik


To acquire sufficient mineral nutrients such as phosphate (Pi) from the soil, most plants engage in symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. Attracted by plant-secreted strigolactones (SLs), the fungi colonize the roots and form highly branched hyphal structures called arbuscules inside inner cortex cells. The host plant must control the different steps of this interaction to maintain its symbiotic nature. However, how plants sense the amount of Pi obtained from the fungus, and how this determines the arbuscule lifespan, are far from understood. Here, we show that Medicago truncatula SPX-domain containing proteins SPX1 and SPX3 regulate root Pi starvation responses, in part by interacting with PHOSPHATE RESPONSE REGULATOR2, as well as fungal colonization and arbuscule degradation. SPX1 and SPX3 are induced upon Pi starvation but become more restricted to arbuscule-containing cells upon the establishment of symbiosis. This induction in arbuscule-containing cells is associated with the presence of cis-regulatory AW-boxes and transcriptional regulation by the WRINKLED1-like transcription factor WRI5a. Under Pi-limiting conditions, SPX1 and SPX3 facilitate the expression of the SL biosynthesis gene DWARF27, which could help explain the increased fungal branching in response to root exudates. Later, in arbuscule-containing cells, SPX1 and SPX3 redundantly control arbuscule degradation. Thus, SPX proteins play important roles as phosphate sensors to maintain a beneficial AM symbiosis.