Sulfur metabolism


Sulfur is one of the most abundant macronutrients for plants. Approximately 1 % of the total dry weight of a plant consists of sulfur. Plants take up oxidized sulfur in the form of sulfate via the roots and can reduce and incorporate sulfur into the proteinogenic amino acid cysteine in leaves. Consequently, plants are key players in the global sulfur cycle and essential for humans who cannot de novo incorporate sulfur into methionine or cysteine.

Cysteine contains a redox-active thiol group, which defines cysteine as a hotspot of protein modification and regulation in response to diverse environmental stimuli impinging on reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation. Furthermore, cysteine is the precursor of the redox-buffer glutathione and has been recently shown to stimulate the synthesis of the stress-related phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA).

Project Updates

2023 We demonstrate the pivotal function of the plastid localized cysteine synthase complex for efficient photosynthesis and grana-thylakoid formation in tobacco plants.

2022 We identify TOR as the receptor kinase adjusting autophagy and meristem activities in roots and shoots for sulfur deficiency-triggered developmental plasticity.

2021 We contribute to the identification of a rice variety that has enhanced arsenite tolerance due to a point mutation in OAS-TL inhibiting cysteine synthase complex dissociation.

2019 We uncover that sulfate is incorporated into cysteine to trigger ABA formation and, consequently, stomatal closure. 

2018 We show that sulfur partitioning between glutathione and protein synthesis determines plant growth.

2017 We demonstrate that the sensor kinase Target Of Rapamycin (TOR) perceives the sulfur supply in leaves to adjust autophagy, cell division, and translation.

2016 We help to establish the role of the sulfur metabolite S-adenosyl-methionine for stress-induced DNA methylation.

2007  Initial finding: We provide direct evidence that cysteine synthase complex formation determines the rate of sulfur assimilation in tobacco plants.