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Sulphur limitation provokes physiological and leaf proteome changes in oilseed rape that lead to perturbation of sulphur, carbon and oxidative metabolisms

Philippe D’Hooghe, Sacha Escamez, Jacques Trouverie and Jean-Christophe Avice*

Author affiliations

UMR INRA-UCBN 950 Écophysiologie Végétale, Agronomie & nutritions NCS, Institut de Biologie Fondamentale et Appliquée, Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, Esplanade de la Paix, CS 14032, Caen Cedex F-14032, France

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Citation and License

BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-23

Published: 7 February 2013



The decline in industrial emissions of sulphur (S) has led to a sulphate depletion in soil resulting in an alteration of crop performance. In oilseed rape, an S deficiency dramatically reduced the seed yield and/or quality. Paradoxically, little is known about the impact of sulphate limitation on oilseed rape leaf metabolism, despite it being a key determinant of growth. In order to identify the metabolic processes involved in the oilseed rape response to S restriction, an analysis of the young leaf proteome combined with a physiological study was carried out at the vegetative stage.


S limitation does not significantly reduce the total shoot biomass but inhibits growth and photosynthesis of young leaves. This photosynthesis decline is not due to a decrease in chlorophyll content, which remains similar to Control. The increase in anthocyanins and H2O2 content in young leaves of S-limited plants suggests that S restriction leads to an oxidative stress. Proteomic analysis at 35 d of S limitation also revealed the induction of 12-oxophitodienoate reductase and ACC synthase, respectively involved in jasmonate and ethylene biosynthesis, two phytohormones that could be implicated in oxidative stress. Proteins involved in photosynthesis and carbon metabolism were also modulated by S restriction. In particular, the decrease in plastocyanin and ferredoxin–NADP reductase suggests that H2O2 accumulation is associated with perturbation of the photosynthetic electron transport chain. The accumulation of chloroplastic Cu-Zn SOD reinforces the idea that an oxidative stress probably occurs in the chloroplast. Proteomic results suggest that the maintenance of chlorophyll in S-limited conditions is related to an accumulation of Water Soluble Chlorophyll binding Proteins, involved in the protection of chlorophyll against ROS. The accumulation of the catalytic α–subunit of chloroplastic ATP synthase suggests that energy production is maintained.


S limitation leads to photosynthesis and carbon metabolism disturbances that could be responsible for the oxidative stress observed in the young leaves of oilseed rape. Despite this, induction of proteins involved in oxidative stress resistance and energy production shows that the leaf capacity to capture and use photosynthetic active radiations for ATP production remains efficient for as long as possible.

Sulphur limitation; Oilseed rape; Leaf proteome; Carbon metabolism; Oxidative stress