Hormones, nutrients and development

Group leader: Benoît Lacombe
CNRS Research Director



Key words

nutrients-hormones interaction, nutrients sensing, long-distance signaling, systems biology, machine   learning


The mineral nutrition of most terrestrial organisms (bacteria, fungi, plants) relies on the uptake of inorganic ions from the soil. However, the availability of these ions dramatically fluctuates in both time and space. To face this constraint, all organisms are able to develop a wide range of adaptive responses triggered by sensing systems that perceive the external nutrient availability. The identification of these sensing systems has a strategic importance at both fundamental and applied levels to unravel and manipulate the molecular mechanisms involved in tolerance to nutrient stress. Flexible modulation of the postembryonic organogenesis in response to nutrient availability is one of the most prominent adaptation strategies, and a major determinant of the plant body architecture. This plant ability to respond to environmental conditions is mediated through signalling molecules called plant hormones. Thus, the current insights into hormone and nutrition interplay indicate existence of complex network in which hormones act as endogenous mediators in response to nutrient fluctuation and at the same time fine tune plant capacity for nutrient acquisition. The current data support the concept of nutrient – hormonal regulatory network control plant behavior in response to fluctuating nitrogen environments and feedback on the nutrition acquisition capacity. Together with the influence of nitrogen on hormonal status of the plant this builds the conceptual cycle where nutrients control growth, which in turn control nutrient use and perception. However, molecular mechanisms underlying this nutrient – hormones regulated plant development are still scarcely understood. We develop complementary approaches to understand the molecular basis of development regulated by the hormone-nutrient interactions (nitrate and urea). We focus on interactions during root development with different approaches taking advantage of our skills in biophysics, molecular and cellular biology, physiology and systems biology. The project uses an approach at the interface between biology and modeling to reveal the molecular mechanisms involved in the interaction between nutritional and hormonal signals in plants. Our goal is to identify the mechanisms through which plants perceive their mineral environment and modify their development to adapt to nutritional constraints by using complementary approaches: targeted approaches on different nitrate, auxin, ABA and cytokinins transporters, and approaches without preconceptions using systems biology.

Team members
Main results
Significant publications

Safi A✉, Medici A, Szponarski W, Martin F, Clément-Vidal A, Marshall-Colón A, Ruffel S, Gaymard F, Rouached H, Leclercq J, Coruzzi GM, Lacombe B, Krouk G✉ (2021) GARP transcription factors repress Arabidopsis nitrogen starvation response via ROS-dependent and -independent pathways . J. Exp. Bot., 72(10):3881-3901

Fichtner F, Dissanayake IM, Lacombe B, Barbier F✉ (2021) Sugar and nitrate sensing: A multi-billion-year story. Trends Plant Sci., 26(4):352-374

Gautrat P, Laffont C, Frugier F, Ruffel S✉ (2021) Nitrogen systemic signaling: From symbiotic nodulation to root acquisition. Trends Plant Sci., 26(4):392-406

Hanikenne M✉, Esteves SM, Fanara S, Rouached H (2021) Coordinated homeostasis of essential mineral nutrients: a focus on iron. J. Exp. Bot., 72(6):2136-2153

Nam H-I, Shahzad Z, Dorone Y, Clowez S, Zhao K, Bouain N, Cho H, Rhee SY, Rouached H✉ (2021) Interdependent iron and phosphorus availability controls photosynthesis through retrograde signaling. bioRxiv,

Cho H, Bouain N, Zheng L, Rouached H✉ (2021) Plant resilience to phosphate limitation: current knowledge and future challenges. Crit. Rev. Biotechnol., 41(1):63-71

Krouk G✉, Kiba T✉ (2020) Nitrogen and Phosphorus interactions in plants: from agronomic to physiological and molecular insights. Curr. Opin. Plant Biol., 57:104-109

Vidal EA, Alvarez JM, Araus V, Riveras E, Brooks MD, Krouk G, Ruffel S, Lejay L, Crawford NM, Coruzzi GM, Gutiérrez RA✉ (2020) Nitrate 2020: Thirty years from transport to signaling networks. Plant Cell, 32(7):2094-2119

Chaiwong N, Bouain N, Prom-U-Thai C✉, Rouached H✉ (2020) Interplay between silicon and iron signalling pathways to regulate silicon transporter Lsi1 expression in rice. Front. Plant Sci., 11:1065

Briat J-F, Gojon A, Plassard C, Rouached H, Lemaire G✉ (2020) Reappraisal of the central role of soil nutrient availability in nutrient management in light of recent advances in plant nutrition at crop and molecular levels. Eur. J. Agron., 116:126069

Léran S*, Noguéro M*, Corratgé-Faillie C, Boursiac Y, Brachet C, Lacombe B✉ (2020) Functional characterization of the Arabidopsis abscisic acid transporters NPF4.5 and NPF4.6 in Xenopus oocytes. Front. Plant Sci., 11:144

Bouain N, Krouk G, Lacombe B, Rouached H✉ (2019) Getting to the root of plant mineral nutrition: combinatorial nutrient stresses reveal emergent properties. Trends Plant Sci., 24(6):542-552

Falter-Braun P, Brady SM, Gutiérrez RA, Coruzzi GM, Krouk G✉ (2019) iPlant Systems Biology (iPSB): An international network hub in the plant community. Mol. Plant, 12(6):727-730

Medici A*✉, Szponarski W*, Dangeville P, Safi A, Dissanayake IM, Saenchai C, Emanuel A, Rubio V, Lacombe B, Ruffel S, Tanurdzic M, Rouached H, Krouk G✉ (2019) Identification of molecular integrators shows that nitrogen actively controls the phosphate starvation response in plants. Plant Cell, 31(5):1171-1184

Rouached H✉ (2018) Red light means on for phosphorus. Nat. Plants, 4:983-984

Ruffel S✉ (2018) Nutrient-related long-distance signals: common players and possible cross-talk. Plant Cell Physiol., 59(9):1723-1732

Poitout A
, Crabos A, Petřík I, Novák O, Krouk G, Lacombe B, Ruffel S✉ (2018) Responses to systemic nitrogen signaling in Arabidopsis roots involve trans-zeatin in shoots. Plant Cell, 30(6):1243-1257

Noguéro M*, Léran S*, Bouguyon E, Brachet C, Tillard P, Nacry P, Gojon A, Krouk G, Lacombe B✉ (2018) Revisiting the functional properties of NPF6.3/NRT1.1/CHL1 in xenopus oocytes. bioRxiv,

Safi A
, Medici A, Szponarski W, Marshall-Colón A, Ruffel S, Gaymard F, Coruzzi GM, Lacombe B, Krouk G✉ (2018) HRS1/HHOs GARP transcription factors and reactive oxygen species are regulators of Arabidopsis nitrogen starvation response. bioRxiv,

Former team members

Artificial intelligence at the service of biological research

The start-up Bionomeex, created by a team from B&PMP and the Alexander Grothendieck Institute in Montpellier, develops artificial intelligence tools for researchers in biology, medicine and the environment. Its first products concern super-resolution microscopy and genetic analysis.

PHD In situ study of transcription factor molecular dynamics (M/W)

PHD In situ study of transcription factor molecular dynamics (M/W) – Honude

Nitrogen Systemic Signaling: From Symbiotic Nodulation to Root Acquisition

Team: Hormones, Nutriments et Développement (HoNuDe)

Gabriel Krouk named in 2020’s “highly cited” researchers list

The Clarivate Web of Science Group list, now in its seventh year, recognises influential researchers globally. The list represents researchers ranking in the top 1% by citations for their specific fields of expertise.

HDR: Sandrine Ruffel

June 19, 2020 – Molecular characterization of systemic signaling related to heterogeneous nitrate availability, in Arabidopsis thaliana

A publication of the HoNuDe team ranked # 1 at Top5 Altmetrics for The Plant Cell (mid March 2019)!

Identification of molecular integrators shows that nitrogen actively controls the phosphate starvation response in plantsAnna Medici*✉, Wojciech Szponarski*, Pierre Dangeville, Alaeddine Safi, Indeewari Madhubhashini Dissanayake, Chorpet Saenchai, Amélie Emanuel, Vicente Rubio, Benoît Lacombe, Sandrine Ruffel, Milos Tanurdzic, Hatem Rouached, Gabriel Krouk✉ Plant Cell (Mars 2019)


Sep 10-14, 2018 – First international plant systems biology meeting – Roscoff – Chair: Gabriel Krouk (CNRS, B&PMP)


Aug 5-10, 2018 – 12th Congress of the International Plant Molecular Biology – Montpellier – Chair: Benoît Lacombe

Thesis defended by Alaeddine Safi

March 27, 2018 – Study of transcription factors involved in nitrogen / nitrate signaling

Thesis defended by Mushtak Kisko

March 8, 2018 – Study of the physiological and molecular mechanisms of co-regulation of phosphate and zinc homeostasis in plants