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A physiological and molecular study of the effects of nickel deficiency and phenylphosphorodiamidate (PPD) application on urea metabolism in oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.)

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Background and aims

Urea is the major nitrogen (N) form supplied as fertilizer in agriculture. However, urease, a nickel-dependent enzyme, allows plants to use external or internally generated urea as a nitrogen source. Since a urease inhibitor is frequently applied in conjunction with urea fertilizer, the N-metabolism of plants may be affected. The aim of this study was to determine physiological and molecular effects of nickel deficiency and a urease inhibitor on urea uptake and assimilation in oilseed rape.


Plants were grown on hydroponic solution with urea as the sole N source under three treatments: plants treated with nickel (+Ni) as a control, without nickel (−Ni) and with nickel and phenylphosphorodiamidate (+Ni+PPD). Urea transport and assimilation were investigated.


The results show that Ni-deficiency or PPD supply led to reduced growth and reduced 15N-uptake from urea. This effect was more pronounced in PPD-treated plants, which accumulated high amounts of urea and ammonium. Thus, Ni-deficiency or addition of PPD, limit the availability of N and decreased shoot and root amino acid content. The up-regulation of BnDUR3 in roots indicated that this gene is a component of the stress response to nitrogen-deficiency. A general decline of glutamine synthetase (GS) activity and activation of glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) and increases in its expression level were observed in control plants. At the same time, in (−N) or (+Ni+PPD) treated plants, no increases in GS or GDH activities and expression level were found.


Overall results showed that plants require Ni as a nutrient (while most widely used nutrient solutions are devoid of Ni), whether they are grown with or without a urea supply, and that urease inhibitors may have deleterious effects at least in hydroponic grown oilseed rape.

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N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide


Glutamine synthetase


Glutamate dehydrogenase


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We thank Marie-Paule Bataillé and Raphaël Ségura for IRMS analyses. We acknowledge Xavier Sarda for helping with plant culture and harvest and Laurence Cantrill for kindly improving the English of the manuscript. The authors thank the «Pôle de compétitivité Mer-Bretagne» and the «Fond Unique Inter-ministériel» which supported this work conducted through the AZOSTIMER project.

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Correspondence to Alain Ourry.

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Arkoun, M., Jannin, L., Laîné, P. et al. A physiological and molecular study of the effects of nickel deficiency and phenylphosphorodiamidate (PPD) application on urea metabolism in oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.). Plant Soil 362, 79–92 (2013).

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