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The roles of nitrate and ammonium in the regulation of the development of nitrate reductase in Chlamydomonas reinhardii


The regulation of the development of nitrate reductase (NR) activity in Chlamydomonas reinhardii has been compared in a wild-type strain and in a mutant (nit-A) which possesses a modified nitrate reductase enzyme that is non-functional in vivo. The modified enzyme cannot use NAD(P)H as an electron donor for nitrate reduction and it differs from wild-type enzyme in that NR activity is not inactivated in vitro by incubation with NAD(P)H and small quantities of cyanide; it is inactivated when reduced benzyl viologen or flavin mononucleotide is present. After short periods of nitrogen starvation mutant organisms contain much higher levels of terminal-NR activity than do similarly treated wild-type ones. Despite the inability of the mutant to utilize nitrate, no nitrate or nitrite was found in nitrogen-starved cultures; it is therefore concluded that the appearance of NR activity is not a consequence of nitrification. After prolonged nitrogen starvation (22 h) the NR level in the mutant is low. It increases rapidly if nitrate is then added and this increase in activity does not occur in the presence of ammonium, tungstate or cycloheximide. Disappearance of preformed NR activity is stimulated by addition of tungstate and even more by addition of ammonium. The results are interpreted as evidence for a continuous turnover of NR in cells of the mutant with ammonium both stimulating NR breakdown and stopping NR synthesis. Nitrate protects the enzyme from breakdown. Reversible inactivation of NR activity is thought to play an insignificant rôle in the mutant.

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nitrate reductase


benzyl viologen


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Hipkin, C.R., Al-Bassam, B.A. & Syrett, P.J. The roles of nitrate and ammonium in the regulation of the development of nitrate reductase in Chlamydomonas reinhardii . Planta 150, 13–18 (1980).

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Key words

  • Ammonium
  • Chlamydomonas (mutant)
  • Nitrate
  • Nitrate reductase