Plant and Soil

, Volume 443, Issue 1–2, pp 185–198 | Cite as

Nitrogen-utilization efficiency during early deficiency after a luxury consumption is improved by sustaining nitrate reductase activity and photosynthesis in cotton plants

  • Eliezer A. Guilherme
  • Cristiano S. Nascimento
  • Ana K. M. Lobo
  • Fabricio E. L. CarvalhoEmail author
  • Joaquim A. G. SilveiraEmail author
Regular Article



Understanding mechanisms underlying N use efficiency (NUE) after luxury consumption and nitrate deprivation is crucial to crop productivity. The aim was to elucidate the importance of photosynthesis, assimilatory nitrate reduction and N-reserve remobilization to NUE in cotton.


Plants were exposed to three conditions in nutrient solution: (a) previous exposure to high nitrate supply (10 mM) for long-term (8 days); (b) nitrate deprivation (NO3 withdrawal) for 8 days followed by (c) an early N-deficiency for 4 days.


Plants supplied with nitrate excess were able to display increment in shoot NUE related to dry matter gain, whereas photosynthetic N use efficiency did not change, evidencing that excess N per se was not able to improve CO2 assimilation. Nitrate reductase (NR) activity was crucial to remobilize stored nitrate through deprivation phase and free amino acids, total proteins, and chlorophylls were also essential to N-remobilization. High NUE was important to kept high root growth rates throughout deprivation and early deficiency phases. Despite the great decrease in chlorophyll content, PSII and PSI activities were kept stable until the onset of early N-deficiency, when cotton plants displayed high shoot NUE.


These responses are closely associated with high NR activity and sustaining of photosynthesis, which contribute to N-homeostasis in different nutritional regimes.


Gossypium hirsutum Nitrate assimilation NUE N-nutrition Reserve remobilization 



Acceptor side limitation of PSI




Donor side limitation of PSI


Effective quantum yield of PSII


Free amino acids


Maximum fluorescence in the dark


Maximum potential quantum yield of PSII


Minimum fluorescence in the dark


N use efficiency


Net CO2 assimilation


Nitrate reductase


Effective quantum yield of PSI


Photochemical quenching coefficient


Photosynthetic activity per N unity in leaves


Photosynthetic photon flux density


Total soluble sugars



The authors are grateful to Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior - CAPES), National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico – CNPq), INCT Plant Stress Biotech (Conselho de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico) Proc. 465480/2014-4 and Fundação Cearense de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (FUNCAP) for funding. FELC is supported by FUNCAP/CAPES (Bolsista CAPES/BRASIL – Proc. 88887.162856/2018-00). AKML is supported by CNPq (Proc. 154471/2018-6).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11104_2019_4214_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (362 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 361 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Plant Metabolism, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular BiologyFederal University of CearáFortalezaBrazil

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