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Plant Physiol Biochem. 2007 Sep;45(9):657-64. Epub 2007 Jun 21.

The ability of plants to secrete proteases by roots.

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Laboratory of Plant Morphogenesis, Department of Plant Cytology and Cytochemistry, Institute of Plant Physiology, Cytology and Cytogenetics, University of Łódź, 90-237 Łódź, Poland.


The aim of our study was to find out if the culture medium of aseptically cultivated seedlings exhibits proteolytic activity and if this event is universal in angiospermous plants. Seedlings of 15 agricultural and wild-living plant species were cultivated for 14days without any addition of nutrients. Our studies showed that roots of higher plants could secrete proteases and that levels of proteolytic activity in the culture medium of individual species (and cultivars of the same species) could be significantly different. The differences between quantities of the secreted proteases were connected neither with the fresh weight of the growing seedlings nor with the surface of the root system. No proteins were required to induce secretion of proteases. The culture medium of a few studied species (Allium porrum, Zea mays, Helianthus annuus) showed the highest proteolytic activity at pH 7. Studies of the influence of standard protease inhibitors showed that examined proteases belong to the cysteine protease family. The results suggest that the apical parts of roots exuded proteases more intensively than mature parts. Our studies suggest that some plant species could develop a strategy to actively increase the level of free amino acids in the soil solution as a source of N. Our results may contribute to studying plant N nutrition in natural ecosystems and to increasing yield after organic fertilization of agricultural species.

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