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Plant J. 2019 Dec 2. doi: 10.1111/tpj.14628. [Epub ahead of print]

The NIN-like protein 5 (ZmNLP5) transcription factor is involved in modulating the nitrogen response in maize.

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Institute of Crop Germplasm and Biotechnology, Provincial Key Laboratory of Agrobiology, Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Nanjing, 210014, China.
Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA.


Maize exhibits marked growth and yield response to supplemental nitrogen (N). Here, we report the functional characterization of a maize NIN-like protein ZmNLP5 as a central hub in a molecular network associated with N metabolism. Predominantly expressed and accumulated in roots and vascular tissues, ZmNLP5 was shown to rapidly respond to nitrate treatment. Under limited N supply, compared with that of wild-type (WT) seedlings, the zmnlp5 mutant seedlings accumulated less nitrate and nitrite in the root tissues and ammonium in the shoot tissues. The zmnlp5 mutant plants accumulated less nitrogen than the WT plants in the ear leaves and seed kernels. Furthermore, the mutants carrying the transgenic ZmNLP5 cDNA fragment significantly increased the nitrate content in the root tissues compared with that of the zmnlp5 mutants. In the zmnlp5 mutant plants, loss of the ZmNLP5 function led to changes in expression for a significant number of genes involved in N signalling and metabolism. We further show that ZmNLP5 directly regulates the expression of nitrite reductase 1.1 (ZmNIR1.1) by binding to the nitrate-responsive cis-element at the 5' UTR of the gene. Interestingly, a natural loss-of-function allele of ZmNLP5 in Mo17 conferred less N accumulation in the ear leaves and seed kernels resembling that of the zmnlp5 mutant plants. Our findings show that ZmNLP5 is involved in mediating the plant response to N in maize.


NIN-like protein (NLP); maize; nitrogen metabolism; nitrogen response; signal transduction; transcription factors


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