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Mol Gen Genet. 1993 Mar;237(3):429-38.

Toxicity of and mutagenesis by chlorate are independent of nitrate reductase activity in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

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  • 1Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Córdoba, Spain.


Spontaneous chlorate-resistant (CR) mutants have been isolated from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii wild-type strains. Most of them, 244, were able to grow on nitrate minimal medium, but 23 were not. Genetic and in vivo complementation analyses of this latter group of mutants indicated that they were defective either at the regulatory locus nit-2, or at the nitrate reductase (NR) locus nit-1, or at very closely linked loci. Some of these nit-1 or nit-2 mutants were also defective in pathways not directly related to nitrate assimilation, such as those of amino acids and purines. Chlorate treatment of wild-type cells resulted in both a decrease in cell survival and an increase in mutant cells resistant to a number of different chemicals (chlorate, methylammonium, sulphanilamide, arsenate, and streptomycin). The toxic and mutagenic effects of chlorate in minimal medium were not found when cells were grown either in darkness or in the presence of ammonium, conditions under which nitrate uptake is drastically inhibited. Chlorate was also able to induce reversion of nit- mutants of C. reinhardtii, but failed to produce His+ revertants or Arar mutants in the BA-13 strain of Salmonella typhimurium. In contrast, chlorate treatment induced mutagenesis in strain E1F1 of the phototrophic bacterium Rhodobacter capsulatus. Genetic analyses of nitrate reductase-deficient CR mutants of C. reinhardtii revealed two types of CR, to low (1.5 mM) and high (15 mM) chlorate concentrations. These two traits were recessive in heterozygous diploids and segregated in genetic crosses independently of each other and of the nit-1 and nit-2 loci. Three hcr loci and four lcr loci mediating resistance to high (HC) and low (LC) concentrations of chlorate were identified. Mutations at the nit-2 locus, and deletions of a putative locus for nitrate transport were always epistatic to mutations responsible for resistance to either LC or HC. In both nit+ and nit- chlorate-sensitive (CS) strains, nitrate and nitrite gave protection from the toxic effect of chlorate. Our data indicate that in C. reinhardtii chlorate toxicity is primarily dependent on the nitrate transport system and independent of the existence of an active NR enzyme. At least seven loci unrelated to the nitrate assimilation pathway and mediating CR are thought to control indirectly the efficiency of the nitrate transporter for chlorate transport. In addition, chlorate appears to be a mutagen capable of inducing a wide range of mutations unrelated to the nitrate assimilation pathway.

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