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Inorganic carbon fixation and metabolism in maize roots as affected by nitrate and ammonium nutrition


  • This paper is part of the contributions to the Proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium on Inorganic Nitrogen Assimilation, held in Tiberias, Israel, 6–11 September, 1992.

M. D.Cramer (corresponding author)


The effects of NO3 and NH+4 nutrition on the rates of dark incorporation of inorganic carbon by roots of hydroponically grown Zea mays L. cv. 712 and on the metabolic products of this incorporation, were determined in plants supplied with NaH14CO3 in the nutrient solution. The shoots and roots of the plants supplied with NaH14CO3 in the root medium for 30 min were extracted with 80%; (v/v) ethanol and fractionated into soluble and insoluble fractions. The soluble fraction was further separated into the neutral, organic acid, amino acid and non-polar fractions. The amino acid fraction was then analyzed to determine quantities and the 14C content of its individual components.

The rates of dark incorporation of inorganic carbon calculated from H14CO3 fixation and attributable to the activity of phosphoenolpyuvate carboxylase (EC, were 5-fold higher in ammonium-fed plants than in nitrate-fed plants after a 30-min pulse of 14C. This activity forms a small, but significant component of the carbon budget of the root. The proportion of 14C located in the shoots was also significantly higher in ammonium-fed plants than in nitrate-fed plants, indicating more rapid translocation of the products of dark fixation to the shoots in plants receiving NH+/sp4 nutrition.

Ammonium-fed plants favoured incorporation of 14C into amino acids, while nitrate-fed plants allocated relatively more 14C into organic acids. The amino acid composition was also dependent on the type of nitrogen supplied, and asparagine was found to accumulate in ammonium-fed plants. The 14C labelling of the amino acids was consistent with the diversion of 14C-oxaloacetate derived from carboxlyation of phosphoenolpyruvate into the formation of both asparatate and glutamate. The results support the conclusion that inorganic carbon fixation in the roots of maize plants provides an important anaplerotic source of carbon for NH+4 assimilation.