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Disruption of the Lotus japonicus transporter LjNPF2.9 increases shoot biomass and nitrate content without affecting symbiotic performances

Sol, Stefano, Valkov, Vladimir Totev, Rogato, Alessandra, Noguero, Mélanie, Gargiulo, Laura, Mele, Giacomo, Lacombe, Benoit, Chiurazzi, Maurizio
BMC plant biology 2019 v.19 no.1 pp. 380
Lotus corniculatus var. japonicus, Xenopus laevis, biomass, environmental factors, genes, knockout mutants, legumes, nitrates, nitrogen, nitrogen fixation, nodulation, nutrient use efficiency, oocytes, phenotype, plant growth, roots, shoots, soil
BACKGROUND: After uptake from soil into the root tissue, distribution and allocation of nitrate throughout the whole plant body, is a critical step of nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and for modulation of plant growth in response to various environmental conditions. In legume plants nitrate distribution is also important for the regulation of the nodulation process that allows to fix atmospheric N (N₂) through the symbiotic interaction with rhizobia (symbiotic nitrogen fixation, SNF). RESULTS: Here we report the functional characterization of the Lotus japonicus gene LjNPF2.9, which is expressed mainly in the root vascular structures, a key localization for the control of nitrate allocation throughout the plant body. LjNPF2.9 expression in Xenopus laevis oocytes induces ¹⁵NO₃ accumulation indicating that it functions as a nitrate importer. The phenotypic characterization of three independent knock out mutants indicates an increased shoot biomass in the mutant backgrounds. This phenotype is associated to an increased/decreased nitrate content detected in the shoots/roots. Furthermore, our analysis indicates that the accumulation of nitrate in the shoot does not affect the nodulation and N-Fixation capacities of the knock out mutants. CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that LjNPF2.9 plays a crucial role in the downward transport of nitrate to roots, occurring likely through a xylem-to-phloem loading-mediated activity. The increase of the shoot biomass and nitrate accumulation might represent a relevant phenotype in the perspective of an improved NUE and this is further reinforced in legume plants by the reported lack of effects on the SNF efficiency.