, Volume 215, Issue 2, pp 123-134

Relatively large nitrate efflux can account for the high specific respiratory costs for nitrate transport in slow-growing grass species

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Abstract

In this paper we address the question why slow-growing grass species appear to take up nitrate with greater respiratory costs than do fast-growing grasses when all plants are grown with free access to nutrients. Specific costs for nitrate transport, expressed as moles of ATP per net mole of nitrate taken up, were 1.5 to 4 times higher in slow-growing grasses than in fast-growing ones (Scheurwater et al., 1998, Plant, Cell & Environ. 21, 995–1005). The net rate of nitrate uptake is determined by two opposing nitrate fluxes across the plasma membrane: influx and efflux. To test whether differences in specific costs for nitrate transport are due to differences in the ratio of nitrate influx to net rate of nitrate uptake, nitrate influx and the net rate of nitrate uptake were measured in the roots of two fast-growing ( Dactylis glomerata L. and Holcus lanatus L.) and two slow-growing (Deschampsia flexuosa L. and Festuca ovina L.) grass species at four points during the diurnal cycle, using 15NO3 -. Efflux was calculated by subtraction of net uptake from influx; it was assumed that efflux of nitrogen represents the flux of nitrate. Transfer of the plants to the solution containing the labelled nitrate did not significantly affect nitrate uptake in the present grass species. The net rate of nitrate uptake was highest during the middle of the light period in all species. Diurnal variation in the net rate of nitrate uptake was mostly due to variation in nitrate influx. Variation in nitrate efflux did not occur in all species, but efflux per net mole of nitrate taken up was higher during darkness than in the light in the slow-growing grasses. The two fast-growing species, however, did not show diurnal variation in the ratio of efflux to net nitrate uptake. Integrated over 24 hours, the slow-growing grasses clearly exhibited higher ratios of influx to net uptake than the fast-growing grass species. Our results indicate that the higher ratio of nitrate influx to net nitrate uptake can account for higher specific costs for nitrate transport in slow-growing grass species compared with those in their fast-growing counterparts, possibly in combination with greater activity of the non-phosphorylating alternative respiratory path. Therefore, under our experimental conditions with plants grown at a non-limiting nitrate supply, nitrate uptake is less efficient (from the point of ATP consumption) in slow-growing grasses than in fast-growing grass species.

This revised version was published online in June 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.