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Planta. 2002 Apr;214(6):887-94. Epub 2002 Jan 23.

Sugar exudation by roots of kallar grass [Leptochloa fusca (L.) Kunth] is strongly affected by the nitrogen source.

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Julius-von-Sachs-Institut für Biowissenschaften, Lehrstuhl Botanik 1, Julius-von-Sachs-Platz 2, 97082 Würzburg, Germany.


Exudation of sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and that of cations and anions from intact roots of kallar grass [Leptochloa fusca (L.) Kunth] grown hydroponically with ammonium or nitrate (3 mM) as N source was investigated. In different experiments, plants grown on ammonium had slightly higher sugar contents than nitrate-grown plants, but their total sugar exudation during a 2-h period was up to 79-fold higher than under nitrate nutrition. Relative root exudation of inorganic anions and cations and that of amino acids (as a percentage of the internal contents exuded per time) was either similar or slightly higher from ammonium-grown than from nitrate-grown plants. Analysis of root architectural parameters revealed that ammonium-grown plants had a higher number of root tips/side roots per gram root fresh weight than nitrate-grown plants, whereas other root parameters, viz. length, diameter, volume and surface area were similar under the two N sources. A majority of the fine roots having diameter up to 0.4 mm represented up to 86% of the total root length, 64% of the total root surface area, and 35% of the total root volume; the root length and surface area per root system of that major root population were similar in ammonium- and nitrate-grown plants. Apparently, root architecture was not responsible for the different exudation rates. Within 12-24 h after shifting ammonium-grown plants to nitrate nutrition, root sugar levels and visible root architecture remained unchanged, yet the sugar exudation rate was reduced 30-fold. Short-term uptake of [14C]glucose (10 microM) from the rooting medium was similar for ammonium- and nitrate-grown plants. Thus, the very different sugar exudation rates were neither related to internal root sugar concentration, nor to the different root architecture, nor to differential resorption of sugars by ammonium- versus nitrate-grown plants. Increased external Ca2+ did not alter sugar exudation, and decreased external pH (4.5) only slightly increased sugar exudation from roots of nitrate-grown plants kept at pH 6.5. It is suggested that the much higher sugar exudation in response to ammonium may facilitate the ecologically and economically important association of diazotrophs with kallar grass roots.

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