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  Section: Plant Nutrition » Macronutrients » Nitrogen
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Nitrate Assimilation

Determination of Essentiality
Nitrogen Metabolism and Nitrogenous Constituents in Plants
  Nitrate Assimilation
    - Nitrate Reductase
    - Nitrite Reductase
  Ammonium Assimilation
    - Glutamine Synthetase
    - Glutamate Synthase
    - Glutamic Acid Dehydrogenase
    - Transamination
    - Amidation
  Proteins and Other Nitrogenous Compounds
Diagnosis of Nitrogen Status in Plants
  Symptoms of Deficiency and Excess
  Concentrations of Nitrogen in Plants
    - Concentrations of Nitrogen in Plant Parts
    - Ratios of Concentrations of Nitrogen to Other Nutrients in Plants
Nitrogen in Soils
  Forms of Nitrogen in Soils
    - Organic Nitrogen in Soil
    - Inorganic Nitrogen in Soil
Soil Testing for Nitrogen
  Determinations of Total Nitrogen
  Biological Determinations of Availability Indexes
    - Determination of Inorganic Nitrogen
      - Ammonium
      - Nitrate
      - Amino Sugars
Nitrogen Fertilizers
  Properties and Use of Nitrogen Fertilizers
    - Anhydrous Ammonia: 82% N
    - Aqua Ammonia: 21% N
    - Urea: 46% N
    - Ammonium Nitrate: 34% N
    - Ammonium Sulfate: 21% N
    - Nitrogen Solutions: 28–32% N
    - Ammonium Phosphates: 10–21% N
    - Other Inorganic Nitrogen Fertilizers
    - Organic Nitrogen Fertilizers: 0.2–15% N
Nitrate and ammonium are the major sources of nitrogen for plants. Under normal, aerated conditions in soils, nitrate is the main source of nitrogen. Nitrate is readily mobile in plants and can be stored in vacuoles, but for nitrate to be used in the synthesis of proteins and other organic compounds in plants, it must be reduced to ammonium. Nitrate reductase converts nitrate into nitrite in the nonorganelle portions of the cytoplasm (5,6). All living plant cells have the capacity to reduce nitrate to nitrite, using the energy and reductant (NADH, NADPH) of photosynthesis and respiration in green tissues and of respiration in roots and nongreen tissues (5). Nitrite reductase, which is located in the chloroplasts, reduces nitrite into ammonium, utilizing the energy and reductant of photosynthesis (reduced ferredoxin).

Nitrate Reductase
Nitrate + reduced pyridine nucleotides (NADH, NADPH) → nitrite + oxidized pyridine nucleotides (NAD+, NADP+)

Nitrate reduction requires molybdenum as a cofactor. A two-electron transfer takes place to reduce nitrate (N oxidation state, +5) to nitrite (N oxidation state, +3). Respiration is the likely source of reduced pyridine nucleotides in roots and also, along with photosynthesis, can be a source in shoots. The conversion of nitrite into ammonia is mediated by nitrite reductase, which is located in the chloroplasts of green tissues and in the proplastids of roots and nongreen tissues (5,7,8).

Nitrite Reductase
Nitrite + reduced ferredoxin → ammonium + oxidized ferredoxin

In leaves, nitrite reduction involves the transfer of six electrons in the transformation of nitrite to ammonium. No intermediates, such as hyponitrous acid (H2N2O2) or hydroxylamine (HONH2), are released, and the reduction takes place in one transfer. The large transfer of energy and reducing power required for this reaction is facilitated by the process being located in the chloroplasts (8). In roots, a ferredoxin-like protein may function, and the energy for producing the reducing potential is provided by glycolysis or respiration (9,10).

In plants, roots and shoots are capable of nitrate metabolism, and the proportion of nitrate reduced in roots or shoots depends on plant species and age, nitrogen supply, temperature, and other environmental factors (11–15).

The assimilation of nitrate is an energy-consuming process, using the equivalent of 15 mol of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for each mole of nitrate reduced (16). The assimilation of ammonia requires an additional five ATP per mole. In roots, as much as 23% of the respiratory energy may be used in nitrate assimilation compared with 14% for ammonium assimilation (17). However, nitrate can be stored in cells without toxic effects, but ammonium is toxic at even low concentrations and must be metabolized into organic combination. Consequently, ammonium metabolism for detoxification may deplete carbon reserves of plants much more than nitrate accumulation.


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