• Lactuca saliva;
  • diurnal rhythm;
  • ELISA assays;
  • N-assimilation;
  • nitrogen oxides


Winter hydroponic growth of several lettuce cultivars under glass showed considerable inhibition (up to 47%) of growth after 6 wk exposure to concentrations of NO (+ NO2 450 nl −1 in total) typical of emissions from propane burners used for direct heating and CO2 enrichment. After a further 4 wk under similar conditions, however, these growth depressions were replaced by a swing into benefit so that, by harvest, pollutant-exposed lettuces were bigger and had faster assimilation rates than those growing in clean CO2-enriched air. This adaptation may partly be explained by enhanced use of NO2-derived N by lettuce leaves, a consequence of increased nitrate reductase (NaR) activities and amounts of associated NaR proteins, despite adequate nitrate also being available in the hydroponic fluid. Rates of NaR activity in the roots, by contrast, were depressed by NO (+ NO2) pollution. NaR activities were highest in early afternoon in clean or polluted air but these daily patterns did not coincide with the content of NaR-associated proteins determined by ELISA. Other mechanisms of modulating NaR activity must therefore be responsible.