Use of gaseous 13NH3 administered to intact leaves of Nicotiana tabacum to study changes in nitrogen utilization during defence induction


R. A. Ferrieri. Fax +1 631 344 7350; e-mail:


Nitrogen-13 (t1/2 9.97 m), a radioactive isotope of nitrogen, offers unique opportunities to explore plant nitrogen utilization over short time periods. Here we describe a method for administering 13N as gaseous 13NH3 to intact leaves of Nicotiana tabacum L. (cv Samsun), and measuring the labelled amino acids using radio high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) on tissue extract. We used this method to study the effects of defence induction on plant nitrogen utilization by applying treatments of methyl jasmonate (MeJA), a potent defence elicitor. MeJA caused a significant increase relative to controls in key [13N]amino acids, including serine, glycine and alanine by 4 h post-treatment, yet had no effect on 13NH3 incorporation, a process that is primarily under the control of the glutamine synthatase/glutamate synthase pathway (GS/GOGAT) in cellular photorespiration. We suggest that the reconfiguration of nitrogen metabolism may reflect induction of non-photorespiratory sources of nitrogen to better serve the plant's defences.