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Eukaryot Cell. 2013 Nov;12(11):1554-62. doi: 10.1128/EC.00139-13. Epub 2013 Sep 20.

Characterization of three ammonium transporters of the glomeromycotan fungus Geosiphon pyriformis.

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LMU Munich, Biocenter, Genetics, Martinsried, Germany.


Members of the Glomeromycota form the arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) symbiosis. They supply plants with inorganic nutrients, including nitrogen, from the soil. To gain insight into transporters potentially facilitating nitrogen transport processes, ammonium transporters (AMTs) of Geosiphon pyriformis, a glomeromycotan fungus forming a symbiosis with cyanobacteria, were studied. Three AMT genes were identified, and all three were expressed in the symbiotic stage. The localization and functional characterization of the proteins in a heterologous yeast system revealed distinct characteristics for each of them. AMT1 of G. pyriformis (GpAMT1) and GpAMT2 were both plasma membrane localized, but only GpAMT1 transported ammonium. Neither protein transported the ammonium analogue methylammonium. Unexpectedly, GpAMT3 was localized in the vacuolar membrane, and it has as-yet-unknown transport characteristics. An unusual cysteine residue in the AMT signature of GpAMT2 and GpAMT3 was identified, and the corresponding residue was demonstrated to play an important role in ammonium transport. Surprisingly, each of the three AMTs of G. pyriformis had very distinct features. The localization of an AMT in the yeast vacuolar membrane is novel, as is the described amino acid residue that clearly influences ammonium transport. The AMT characteristics might reflect adaptations to the lifestyle of glomeromycotan fungi.

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