Mechanisms and Regulation of Ammonium Uptake in Higher Plants

  • Nicolaus von Wirén
  • Alain Gojon
  • Sylvain Chaillou
  • D. RaperJr


In soils, ammonium (NH4 +) mainly results from the mineralisation of organic matter and represents besides nitrate (NO3 ) the quantitatively most important source of nitrogen (N) for plant nutrition. In well-aerated agricultural soils, however, average annual NH4 + concentrations are often 10 to 1000 times lower than those of NO3 , rarely exceeding 50.µM (Marschner 1995). Despite these low concentrations in soils, NH4 + uptake by plant roots can proceed at very high rates, due to the presence of transport systems in the root plasma membrane with a particularly high substrate affinity. Indeed, NH4 + uptake is of major importance for N nutrition under numerous circumstances. On the one hand, NH4 + nutrition plays an essential role in waterlogged and acid soils, or in cold climates where nitrification is inhibited (Marschner 1995). On the other hand, under mixed N nutrition (NO3 plus NH4 +), NH4 + is often the preferential form of N taken up by the plant (Sasakawa and Yamamoto 1978; Gojon et al. 1986; Glass and Siddiqi 1995; Gazzarrini et al. 1999). NH4 + is also probably the main form of N exported from symbiotic N2-fixing microorganisms to their host plants, thereby making a major contribution to N nutrition in several plant families (Udvardi and Day 1997). In root nodules, NH4 + is transported across the symbiosome membrane which segregates the bacteroids from the plant cytosol (see Chap. 3). In this case, NH4 + concentrations in the plant cytosol can be about 50-fold lower than in the bacteroids (Streeter 1989), requiring low-affinity and high-capacity transport systems on the plant side, to ensure an efficient import of microbially fixed N (Tyerman et al. 1995).


Glutamine Synthetase Ammonium Uptake Plant Nitrogen Ammonium Transporter High Substrate Affinity 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolaus von Wirén
    • 1
  • Alain Gojon
    • 2
  • Sylvain Chaillou
    • 3
  • D. RaperJr
    • 4
  1. 1.Zentrum für Molekularbiologie der PflanzenUniversität TübingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Biochimie et Physiologie Moléculaire des PlantesENSAM/INRA/UM2/CNRSMontpellier cedexFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire de la Nutrition Azotée des PlantesINRAVersailles cedexFrance
  4. 4.Soil Science DepartmentNCSURaleighUSA

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