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J Exp Bot. 2003 Aug;54(389):1851-64.

Induction of nitrate uptake in maize roots: expression of a putative high-affinity nitrate transporter and plasma membrane H+-ATPase isoforms.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Produzione Vegetale e Tecnologie Agrarie, University of Udine, Via delle Scienze 208, I-33100 Udine, Italy.


An investigation was carried out to assess the effect of nitrate supply on the root plasma membrane (PM) H+-ATPase of etiolated maize (Zea mays L.) seedlings grown in hydroponics. The treatment induced higher uptake rates of the anion and the expression of a putative high-affinity nitrate transporter gene (ZmNRT2.1), the first to be identified in maize. Root PM H+-ATPase activity displayed a similar time-course pattern as that of net nitrate uptake and investigations were carried out to determine which of the two isoforms reported to date in maize, MHA1 and 2, responded to the treatment. MHA1 was not expressed under the conditions analysed. Genome analysis revealed that MHA2, described as the most abundant form in all maize tissues, was not present in the maize hybrid investigated, but a similar form was found instead and named MHA3. A second gene (named MHA4) was also identified and partially sequenced. Both genes, classified as members of the PM H+-ATPase subfamily II, responded to nitrate supply, although to different degrees: MHA4, in particular, proved more sensitive than MHA3, with a greater up- and down-regulation in response to the treatment. Increased expression of subfamily II genes resulted in higher steady-state levels of the enzyme in the root tissues and enhanced ATP-hydrolysing activity. The results support the idea that greater proton-pumping activity is required when nitrate inflow increases and suggest that nitrate may be the signal triggering the expression of the two members of PM H+-ATPase subfamily II.

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