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J Exp Bot. 2001 Aug;52(361):1655-63.

Nitrogen storage and remobilization in Brassica napus L. during the growth cycle: nitrogen fluxes within the plant and changes in soluble protein patterns.

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UMR INRA/UCBN 950, Physiologie et Biochimie végétales, Institut de Recherche en Biologie Appliquée, Esplanade de la Paix, Université de Caen, 14032 Caen Cedex, France.


Oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) is commonly grown for oil or bio-fuel production, while the seed residues can be used for animal feed. It can also be grown as a catch crop because of its efficiency in extracting mineral N from the soil profile. However, the N harvest index is usually low, due in part to a low ability to remobilize N from leaves and to the fall of N-rich leaves which allows a significant amount of N to return to the environment. In order to understand how N filling of pods occurs, experiments were undertaken to quantify N flows within the plant by (15)N labelling and to follow the changes in soluble protein profiles of tissues presumed to store and subsequently to remobilize N. Whereas N uptake increased as a function of growth, N uptake capacity decreased at flowering to a non-significant level during pod filling. However, large amounts of endogenous N were transferred from the leaves to the stems and to taproots which acted as a buffering storage compartment later used to supply the reproductive tissue. About 15% of the total N cycling through the plant were lost through leaf fall and 48%, nearly all of which had been remobilized from vegetative tissues, were finally recovered in the mature pods. SDS-PAGE analysis revealed that large amounts of a 23 kDa polypeptide accumulated in the taproots during flowering and was later fully hydrolysed. Its putative function of storage protein is further supported by the fact that when plants were grown at lower temperature, both flowering, its accumulation and further mobilization were delayed. The overall results are discussed in relation to plant strategies which optimize N cycling to reproductive sinks by means of buffering vegetative tissues such as stems and taproots.

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