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d15N values in plants are determined by both nitrate assimilation and circulation

Cui J., Lamade E., Fourel F., Tcherkez G.. 2020. New Phytologist, 226 (6) : p. 1696-1707.

Nitrogen (N) assimilation is associated with 14N/15N fractionation such that plant tissues are generally 15N-depleted compared to source nitrate. In addition to nitrate concentration, the d15N value in plants is also influenced by isotopic heterogeneity amongst organs and metabolites. However, our current understanding of d15N values in nitrate is limited by the relatively small number of compound-specific data. We extensively measured d15N in nitrate at different time points, in sunflower and oil palm grown at fixed nitrate concentration, with nitrate circulation being varied using potassium (K) conditions and waterlogging. There were strong interorgan d15N differences for contrasting situations between the two species, and a high 15N-enrichment in root nitrate. Modelling shows that this 15N-enrichment can be explained by nitrate circulation and compartmentalisation whereby despite a numerically small flux value, the backflow of nitrate to roots via the phloem can lead to a c. 30¿ difference between leaves and roots. Accordingly, waterlogging and low K conditions, which down-regulate sap circulation, cause a decrease in the leaf-to-root isotopic difference. Our study thus suggests that plant d15N can be used as a natural tracer of N fluxes between organs and highlights the potential importance of d15N of circulating phloem nitrate.

Thématique : Physiologie végétale : nutrition; Physiologie et biochimie végétales

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