, Volume 125, Issue 3, pp 359–374 | Cite as

Organic nitrogen uptake by plants: reevaluation by position-specific labeling of amino acids

Reevaluation of organic N uptake by plants by position-specific labeling
  • Daniel Moran-Zuloaga
  • Michaela Dippold
  • Bruno Glaser
  • Yakov Kuzyakov


Current studies suggest that many plants are able to take up not only inorganic nitrogen (N) but also organic N. We used the novel tool of position-specific isotope labeling to improve the quantification of intact amino acid uptake and to deepen our understanding of the processes occurring at the root-soil-microorganism interface. Position-specific 14C and 15N labeled alanine enabled us to trace the uptake of C from individual molecule positions by Zea mays, Lupinus albus and Cichorium intybus. Uniformly 14C labeled alanine and acetate and inorganic 15NH4 + and 15NO3 were applied as controls. Equal uptake of uniformly 14C labeled alanine and acetate showed that plant uptake of low molecular weight organic substances (LMWOS) is independent of N in the molecule. 14C uptake from individual molecule positions of alanine strongly differed: this confirmed that soil microorganisms cleaved alanine within 6 h into transformation products, which were then taken up by the plants. Microbial utilization strongly outcompeted the plant uptake of LMWOS in agricultural soils. This study revealed that position-specific labeling is an innovative tool that enables separation of the intact uptake from the uptake of molecule fragments and improves the understanding of competing processes for LMWOS utilization in the rhizosphere.


Alanine Chicory Lupine Maize Organic N uptake Position-specific labeling 



This study was financed by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG (DFG KU 1184/19-1). We thank Ilse Thaufelder and Stefanie Bösel, technical staff at the University of Bayreuth and Martin-Luther University of Halle, respectively, and Cristina Cavedon for figure design.

Supplementary material

10533_2015_130_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (1.8 mb)
Supplementary Figure Percentage of 14C incorporation in soil and CO2 efflux after position-specific labeling with alanine. The alanine positions were C-1 (carboxyl group), C-2 (amino-bound group) and C-3 (methyl group). Letters indicate significant differences (p < 0.001) between alanine C positions. Supplementary material 1 (JPEG 1840 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Moran-Zuloaga
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michaela Dippold
    • 1
    • 3
  • Bruno Glaser
    • 4
  • Yakov Kuzyakov
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Agroecosystem Research, BayCEERUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  2. 2.Departamento de Mecánica y Ciencias de la ProducciónEscuela Superior Politécnica del LitoralGuayaquilEcuador
  3. 3.Department of Agricultural Soil ScienceGeorg-August-University GoettingenGöttingenGermany
  4. 4.Department of Soil Biogeochemistry, Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional ScienceMartin-Luther University Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany
  5. 5.Department of Soil Science of Temperate EcosystemsGeorg-August University GoettingenGöttingenGermany

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