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Low inorganic phosphate (Pi) availability triggers an array of spatiotemporal adaptive responses in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). There are several reports on the effects of Pi deprivation on the root system that have been attributed to different growth conditions and/or inherent genetic variability. Here we show that the gelling agents, largely treated as inert components, significantly affect morphophysiological and molecular responses of the seedlings to deficiencies of Pi and other nutrients. Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectroscopy analysis revealed variable levels of elemental contaminants not only in different types of agar but also in different batches of the same agar. Fluctuating levels of phosphorus (P) in different agar types affected the growth of the seedlings under Pi-deprivation condition. Since P interacts with other elements such as iron, potassium, and sulfur, contaminating effects of these elements in different agars were also evident in the Pi-deficiency-induced morphological and molecular responses. P by itself acted as a contaminant when studying the responses of Arabidopsis to micronutrient (iron and zinc) deficiencies. Together, these results highlighted the likelihood of erroneous interpretations that could be easily drawn from nutrition studies when different agars have been used. As an alternative, we demonstrate the efficacy of a sterile and contamination-free hydroponic system for dissecting morphophysiological and molecular responses of Arabidopsis to different nutrient deficiencies. © 2009 American Society of Plant Biologists.

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Plant Physiology

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