Plant and Soil

, Volume 358, Issue 1–2, pp 131–141 | Cite as

Interplay among NH 4 + uptake, rhizosphere pH and plasma membrane H+-ATPase determine the release of BNIs in sorghum roots – possible mechanisms and underlying hypothesis

  • Yiyong Zhu
  • Houqing Zeng
  • Qirong Shen
  • T. Ishikawa
  • Guntur Venkata SubbaraoEmail author
Regular Article


Aims and background

The ability to suppress soil nitrification through the release of nitrification inhibitors from plant roots is termed ‘biological nitrification inhibition’ (BNI). Earlier, we reported that sorghum roots release higher BNI-activity when grown with NH 4 + , but not with NO 3 - as N source. Also for BNI release, rhizosphere pH of <5.0 is needed; beyond this, a negative effect on BNI release was observed with nearly 80% loss of BNI activity at pH >7.0. This study is aimed at understanding the inter-functional relationships associated with NH 4 + uptake, rhizosphere-pH and plasma membrane H+-ATPase (PM H+-ATPase) activity in regulating the release of BNIs (biological nitrification inhibitors) from sorghum roots.


Sorghum was grown hydroponically and root exudates were collected from intact plants using a pH-stat system to separate the secondary acidification effects by NH 4 + uptake on BNIs release. A recombinant luminescent Nitrosomonas europaea bioassay was used to determine BNI-activity. Root plasma membrane was isolated using a two-phase partitioning system. Hydrolytic H+-ATPase activity was determined. Split-root system setup was deployed to understand the localized responses to NH 4 + , H+-ATPase-stimulator (fusicoccin) or H+-ATPase-inhibitor (vanadates) on BNI release by sorghum.


Presence of NH 4 + in the rhizosphere stimulated the expression of H+-ATPase activity and enhanced the release of BNIs from sorghum roots. Fusicoccin, which stimulates H+-ATPase activity, also stimulated BNIs release in the absence of NH 4 + ; vanadate, which suppresses H+-ATPase activity, also suppressed the release of BNIs. NH 4 + levels (in rhizosphere) positively influenced BNIs release and root H+-ATPase activity in the concentration range of 0-1.0 mM, indicating a close relationship between BNI release and root H+-ATPase activity with a possible involvement of carrier-mediated transport for the release of BNIs in sorghum.


Our results suggest that NH 4 + uptake, PM H+-ATPase activity, and rhizosphere acidification are functionally inter-connected with BNI release in sorghum. Such knowledge is critical to gain insights into why BNI function is more effective in light-textured, mildly acidic soils compared to other soil types.


Ammonium uptake Biological nitrification inhibition (BNI) Biological nitrification inhibitors (BNIs) Carrier-mediated transport systems Fusicoccin Plasma membrane H+-ATPase Rhizosphere pH Sorghum Vanadate 



This work was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for scientific research from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan and Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC 31172035).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yiyong Zhu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Houqing Zeng
    • 1
    • 2
  • Qirong Shen
    • 2
  • T. Ishikawa
    • 1
  • Guntur Venkata Subbarao
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Crop, Livestock and Environment DivisionJapan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS)TsukubaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Plant Nutrition, College of Resources and Environmental SciencesNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingChina

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