The effects of the availability of inorganic nitrogen on in vivo activity of nitrate reductase in Sphagnum capillifolium (Ehrh.) Hedw. and Sphagnum fuscum (Schimp.) Klinggr. were investigated in both field and laboratory experiments. Nitrate reductase activity per unit mass was highest in the capitulum and declined down the stem. Nitrate reductase activity was substrate-inducible, maximum and total activities induced being correlated with the natural logarithm of nitrate concentration in the range 0 to 10 mM. Repeated treatment with 05 mM nitrate did not give rise to repeated similar patterns of nitrate reductase activity, induction decreasing with later successive applications. An initial ammonium treatment in a field experiment did not affect nitrate-induced enzyme activity. However, repeated applications of ammonium caused marked changes in the patterns of induction and a general repression of total nitrate reduction. This repression may result from both an effect of ammonium on nitrate uptake and a direct effect of the accumulation of ammonium or ammonium assimilation products on the enzyme itself. Repression by repeated nitrate supply may also operate in a similar way. The effects of ammonium and nitrate supply on the induction of nitrate reductase were shown to interact.
The initial rate of induction of nitrate reductase activity increased with temperature, but prolonged nitrate supply resulted in highest enzyme levels at lowest temperatures. This effect may be due to greater rates of activity giving rise to greater repression by the products of nitrate assimilation at the higher temperatures. The results are discussed in relation to the use of nitrate reductase activity as a monitor of atmospheric nitrate deposition in ombrotrophic bryophyte species.