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Keywords:

  • amino acids;
  • glutamate synthase;
  • nitrogen net uptake;
  • Populus;
  • proline;
  • salinity

Summary

  • • 
    External salinization can affect different steps of nitrogen (N) metabolism (ion uptake, N assimilation, and amino acid and protein synthesis) depending on the inorganic N source.
  • • 
    Here, we assessed the net uptake of N supplied as nitrate or ammonium and N assimilation (combining metabolite analyses with molecular biological approaches) in grey poplar (Populus × canescens) plants grown under saline (75 mm NaCl) and control conditions.
  • • 
    The specific (µmol N g−1 dry weight fine roots h−1) and total plant (µmol N per plant h−1) N net uptake rates, total plant N content, total plant biomass and total leaf protein concentration were reduced under saline conditions when plants were supplied with ammonium. In both nutritional groups, salt treatment caused pronounced accumulation of soluble N compounds in the leaves. The mRNAs of genes coding for enzymes catalyzing rate-limiting steps of both proline synthesis and degradation (delta-1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthase and proline dehydrogenase) as well as for NADH-dependent glutamate synthase were accumulated under saline conditions.
  • • 
    Whereas under control conditions the plant N status seemed to be superior when ammonium was supplied, the N balance of ammonium-fed plants was more severely affected by salt stress than that of plants supplied with nitrate. Possible metabolic implications of stress-related accumulation of particular amino acids are discussed.