Water impacts nutrient dose responses genome-wide to affect crop production.
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Changes in nutrient dose have dramatic effects on gene expression and development. One outstanding question is whether organisms respond to changes in absolute nutrient amount (moles) vs. its concentration in water (molarity). This question is particularly relevant to plants, as soil drying can alter nutrient concentration, without changing its absolute amount. To compare the effects of amount vs. concentration, we expose rice to a factorial matrix varying the dose of nitrogen (N) and water (W) over a range of combinations, and quantify transcriptome and phenotype responses. Using linear models, we identify distinct dose responses to either N-moles, W-volume, N-molarity (N/W), or their synergistic interaction (NxW). Importantly, genes whose expression patterns are best explained by N-dose and W interactions (N/W or NxW) in seedlings are associated with crop outcomes in replicated field trials. Such N-by-W responsive genes may assist future efforts to develop crops resilient to increasingly arid, low nutrient soils.
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