Open Access Research article

Transcriptional responses of Arabidopsis thaliana plants to As (V) stress

Jason M Abercrombie1, Matthew D Halfhill2, Priya Ranjan1, Murali R Rao1, Arnold M Saxton3, Joshua S Yuan1 and C Neal Stewart1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee, 2431 Joe Johnson Blvd., Knoxville, TN 37996-4561, USA

2 Biology Department, St. Ambrose University, 518 West Locust St., Davenport, IA 52803, USA

3 Department of Animal Science, University of Tennessee, 2505 River Dr., Knoxville, TN 37996-4561, USA

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BMC Plant Biology 2008, 8:87  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-87

Published: 6 August 2008



Arsenic is toxic to plants and a common environmental pollutant. There is a strong chemical similarity between arsenate [As (V)] and phosphate (Pi). Whole genome oligonucleotide microarrays were employed to investigate the transcriptional responses of Arabidopsis thaliana plants to As (V) stress.


Antioxidant-related genes (i.e. coding for superoxide dismutases and peroxidases) play prominent roles in response to arsenate. The microarray experiment revealed induction of chloroplast Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD) (at2g28190), Cu/Zn SOD (at1g08830), as well as an SOD copper chaperone (at1g12520). On the other hand, Fe SODs were strongly repressed in response to As (V) stress. Non-parametric rank product statistics were used to detect differentially expressed genes. Arsenate stress resulted in the repression of numerous genes known to be induced by phosphate starvation. These observations were confirmed with qRT-PCR and SOD activity assays.


Microarray data suggest that As (V) induces genes involved in response to oxidative stress and represses transcription of genes induced by phosphate starvation. This study implicates As (V) as a phosphate mimic in the cell by repressing genes normally induced when available phosphate is scarce. Most importantly, these data reveal that arsenate stress affects the expression of several genes with little or unknown biological functions, thereby providing new putative gene targets for future research.