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Genetics. 1998 Jun;149(2):491-9.

Arabidopsis mutants define an in vivo role for isoenzymes of aspartate aminotransferase in plant nitrogen assimilation.

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Biology Department, New York University 10003, USA.


Arabidopsis contains five isoenzymes of aspartate aminotransferase (AspAT) localized to the cytosol, chloroplast, mitochondria, or peroxisomes. To define the in vivo function of individual isoenzymes, we screened for Arabidopsis mutants deficient in either of the two major isoenzymes, cytosolic AAT2 or chloroplastic AAT3, using a native gel activity assay. In a screen of 8,000 M2 seedlings, three independent mutants deficient in cytosolic AAT2 (aat2) and two independent mutants deficient in chloroplastic AAT3 (aat3) were isolated. Mapping of aat2 and aat3 mutations and the five AspAT genes (ASP1-ASP5) established associations as follows: the mutation affecting aat2 maps with and cosegregates with ASP2, one of two expressed genes for cytosolic AspAT; the mutation affecting aat3 maps to the same location as the ASP5 gene encoding chloroplastic AspAT. Phenotypic analysis of the aat2 and aat3 mutants revealed a dramatic aspartate-related phenotype in one of the mutants deficient in cytosolic AAT2. The aat2-2 mutant displays an 80% reduction in levels of aspartate transported in the phloem of light-grown plants, and a 50% reduction in levels of asparagine transported in dark-adapted plants. These results indicate that cytosolic AAT2 is the major isoenzyme controlling aspartate synthesized for nitrogen transport in the light, and that this aspartate pool is converted to asparagine when plants are dark adapted.

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