Plants of Urtica dioica L., a very nitrophilous species, were grown in a nutrient solution containing either high (100%) or low (2%) nutrient supply. Part of these plants were subjected to a sudden switch from 100% to 2% or vice versa. Plant weight, sugar and organic nitrogen (both soluble and insoluble) and nitrate content were measured during growth. The activities of two nitrogen assimilating enzymes, nitrate reductase (NR) and glutamine synthetase (GS) were determined.
Growth of Urtica dioica was retarded at low nutrient supply. Root growth was limited by another factor than nitrogen. This was shown by a higher protein content. In the first period after a switch from 100% to 2%, redistribution of nitrogen from shoot to root could be demonstrated, and leakage from the root into the nutrient solution. It is suggested that in these conditions GS in the root reacted to this downward flux. Comparison with earlier findings on the less nitrophilous Plantago lanceolata showed that at 100% nutrient supply a correlation occurs between nitrate reduction and glutamine synthetase activity in that plant part which exported reduced nitrogen: the root in P. lanceolata and the shoot in U. dioica. In the importing plant part, glutamine synthetase was influenced by nitrate reduction as well as by imported reduced nitrogen.