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Physiological and molecular characterization of aluminum resistance in Medicago truncatula

Divya Chandran1, Natasha Sharopova1, Kathryn A VandenBosch13, David F Garvin234 and Deborah A Samac235*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Plant Biology, University of Minnesota, 250 Biological Sciences Center, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA

2 USDA-ARS-Plant Science Research, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA

3 Center for Microbial and Plant Genomics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA

4 Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota, 411 Borlaug Hall St. Paul, MN 55108, USA

5 Department of Plant Pathology, University of Minnesota, 495 Borlaug Hall, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA

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BMC Plant Biology 2008, 8:89  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-89

Published: 19 August 2008



Aluminum (Al) toxicity is an important factor limiting crop production on acid soils. However, little is known about the mechanisms by which legumes respond to and resist Al stress. To explore the mechanisms of Al toxicity and resistance in legumes, we compared the impact of Al stress in Al-resistant and Al-sensitive lines of the model legume, Medicago truncatula Gaertn.


A screen for Al resistance in 54 M. truncatula accessions identified eight Al-resistant and eight Al-sensitive lines. Comparisons of hydroponic root growth and root tip hematoxylin staining in an Al-resistant line, T32, and an Al-sensitive line, S70, provided evidence that an inducible Al exclusion mechanism occurs in T32. Transcriptional events associated with the Al resistance response were analyzed in T32 and S70 after 12 and 48 h Al treatment using oligonucleotide microarrays. Fewer genes were differentially regulated in response to Al in T32 compared to S70. Expression patterns of oxidative stress-related genes, stress-response genes and microscopic examination of Al-treated root tips suggested a lower degree of Al-induced oxidative damage to T32 root tips compared to S70. Furthermore, genes associated with cell death, senescence, and cell wall degradation were induced in both lines after 12 h of Al treatment but preferentially in S70 after 48 h of Al treatment. A multidrug and toxin efflux (MATE) transporter, previously shown to exude citrate in Arabidopsis, showed differential expression patterns in T32 and S70.


Our results identified novel genes induced by Al in Al-resistant and sensitive M. truncatula lines. In T32, transcription levels of genes related to oxidative stress were consistent with reactive oxygen species production, which would be sufficient to initiate cell death of Al-accumulating cells thereby contributing to Al exclusion and root growth recovery. In contrast, transcriptional levels of oxidative stress-related genes were consistent with excessive reactive oxygen species accumulation in S70 potentially resulting in necrosis and irreversible root growth inhibition. In addition, a citrate-exuding MATE transporter could function in Al exclusion and/or internal detoxification in T32 based on Al-induced transcript localization studies. Together, our findings indicate that multiple responses likely contribute to Al resistance in M. truncatula.