Abstract Roots of sterile-grown, intact 6-day-old seedlings of Ricinus communis possess at least two independent active amino acid uptake systems, one for neutral and one for basic amino acids. The kinetics of uptake of L-proline and L-arginine, which were taken as representative substrates for the two systems, are biphasic. At low concentrations (0.01–0.5 mol m−3) Michaelis -Menten kinetics prevail, changing to a linear concentration dependence at higher substrate concentrations (1–50 mol m−3). L-glutamate uptake velocity is linear over the whole substrate concentration range.
For comparison the uptake kinetics of nitrate and ammonium were determined as well as interactions among the different nitrogen sources. The Km value for nitrate uptake was 0.4 mol m−3, and for ammonium 0.1 mol m−3. The uptake capacity for nitrate or ammonium was approximately the same as for amino acids. The interaction between the uptake systems for organic and inorganic nitrogen is small.
Two hypotheses for the physiological significance of amino acid uptake by roots were considered:
(i) Uptake of amino acids from the soil-determination of amino acids in soil and in soil water indicates that they might contribute 15–25% to the nitrogen nutrition of the plant.
(ii) Amino acid uptake systems of root cells serve primarily as retrieval of amino acids delivered from the phloem- it was found that 14C L-glutamine, which was delivered to the cotyledon and transported to the root via the phloem, was not lost by the roots, whereas it appeared in the bathing medium if L-glutamine was applied externally to the root to compete for the uptake sites; this suggests that an apoplastic pool of amino acids in the root exists due to their efflux from the phloem.