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Nitrogen Fixation Control under Drought Stress. Localized or Systemic

Marino, Daniel, Frendo, Pierre, Ladrera, Ruben, Zabalza, Ana, Puppo, Alain, Arrese-Igor, Cesar, González, Esther M.
Plant physiology 2007 v.143 no.4 pp. 1968-1974
Pisum sativum, drought, field capacity, isocitrate dehydrogenase, nitrogen, nitrogen fixation, peas, root systems, sucrose synthase, water potential, water stress
Legume-Rhizobium nitrogen fixation is dramatically affected under drought and other environmental constraints. However, it has yet to be established as to whether such regulation of nitrogen fixation is only exerted at the whole-plant level (e.g. by a systemic nitrogen feedback mechanism) or can also occur at a local nodule level. To address this question, nodulated pea (Pisum sativum) plants were grown in a split-root system, which allowed for half of the root system to be irrigated at field capacity, while the other half was water deprived, thus provoking changes in the nodule water potential. Nitrogen fixation only declined in the water-deprived, half-root system and this result was correlated with modifications in the activities of key nodule's enzymes such as sucrose synthase and isocitrate dehydrogenase and in nodular malate content. Furthermore, the decline in nodule water potential resulted in a cell redox imbalance. The results also indicate that systemic nitrogen feedback signaling was not operating in these water-stressed plants, since nitrogen fixation activity was maintained at control values in the watered half of the split-root plants. Thus, the use of a partially droughted split-root system provides evidence that nitrogen fixation activity under drought stress is mainly controlled at the local level rather than by a systemic nitrogen signal.