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Plant Sci. 2011 Mar;180(3):431-8. doi: 10.1016/j.plantsci.2010.11.010. Epub 2010 Dec 1.

Urea metabolism in plants.

Author information

1
Department of Plant Biochemistry, Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences, Freie Universität Berlin, Königin-Luise-Str. 12-16, 14195 Berlin, Germany. cpwitte@zedat.fu-berlin.de

Abstract

Urea is a plant metabolite derived either from root uptake or from catabolism of arginine by arginase. In agriculture, urea is intensively used as a nitrogen fertilizer. Urea nitrogen enters the plant either directly, or in the form of ammonium or nitrate after urea degradation by soil microbes. In recent years various molecular players of plant urea metabolism have been investigated: active and passive urea transporters, the nickel metalloenzyme urease catalyzing the hydrolysis of urea, and three urease accessory proteins involved in the complex activation of urease. The degradation of ureides derived from purine breakdown has long been discussed as a possible additional metabolic source for urea, but an enzymatic route for the complete hydrolysis of ureides without a urea intermediate has recently been described for Arabidopsis thaliana. This review focuses on the proteins involved in plant urea metabolism and the metabolic sources of urea but also addresses open questions regarding plant urea metabolism in a physiological and agricultural context. The contribution of plant urea uptake and metabolism to fertilizer urea usage in crop production is still not investigated although globally more than half of all nitrogen fertilizer is applied to crops in the form of urea. Nitrogen use efficiency in crop production is generally well below 50% resulting in economical losses and creating ecological problems like groundwater pollution and emission of nitric oxides that can damage the ozone layer and function as greenhouse gasses. Biotechnological approaches to improve fertilizer urea usage bear the potential to increase crop nitrogen use efficiency.

PMID:
21421389
DOI:
10.1016/j.plantsci.2010.11.010
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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