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Urease deficiency alters nitrogen metabolism and gene expression in urease-null soybean without affecting growth or productivity under nitrate supply

Abstract

Urea is a product of arginine catabolism in plants and its Nitrogen is recycled into the plant metabolism as ammonium after hydrolysis by urease. The eu3-a soybean mutant is null for the Ni insertion protein (UreG) necessary for urease activity. No UreG protein nor any activity of the urease enzymes is detectable in these eu3-a mutants. In order to understand the mechanisms of nitrogen cycling in soybean and the possible physiological benefits to N metabolism, eu3-a (urease-null) and control soybean near-isogenic Eu3 plants were studied. They were grown to two different developmental stages (vegetative-V5 and reproductive-R5) with 15 mM nitrate as the sole source of nitrogen. Growth and biochemical parameters (such as amino acid, nitrate, and polyamine pools) were evaluated in leaves. Gene transcript levels were determined for some enzymes related to Arg catabolism, together with those of the DUR3 active urea transporter and the UreG Ni-insertion accessory protein, whose transcript was confirmed to be absent in eu3-a. The absence of urease activity in the eu3-a null plants did not affect growth or yield although there was a substantial and progressive accumulation of urea in the leaves. Metabolic changes occurred mainly in the pool of amino acids and in the expression of genes related to the pathway of Arg degradation. There are indications that the pathway may be diverted to form polyamines, but to a limited extent. Thus, considering both developmental stages, the degradation of Arg to urea and Orn remains the main path for nitrogen recycling from Arg, despite the progressive accumulation of urea and consequently immobilization of N.

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Abbreviations

AA:

Amino acids

N:

Nitrogen

NILs:

Near-isogenic lines

NH4 + :

Ammonium

NO3 :

Nitrate

TSS:

Total soluble sugar

Agm:

Agmatine

Spm:

Spermine

Spd:

Spermidine

Put:

Putrescine

NR:

Nitrate reductase

UU:

Ubiquitous urease

ARGAH:

Arginase—arginine amidohydrolase

OTC:

Ornithine carbamoyltransferase or ornithine transcarbamylase

OAT:

Ornithine aminotransferase

P5CR:

Pyrroline-5-carboxylate-reductase

ODC:

Ornithine decarboxylase

ADC:

Arginine decarboxylase

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Acknowledgements

SCRS, JCP, and PM thank the São Paulo Research Foundation—FAPESP, respectively, for a post-doctoral Grant (2013/25094-8), visiting professor Grant (2014/09730-4), and research support (Grant 2008/58035-6). PM and LS thank the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development-CNPq for research fellowships.

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Correspondence to Sarah Caroline Ribeiro de Souza.

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de Souza, S.C.R., Sodek, L., Polacco, J.C. et al. Urease deficiency alters nitrogen metabolism and gene expression in urease-null soybean without affecting growth or productivity under nitrate supply. Acta Physiol Plant 42, 34 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11738-020-3020-9

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Keywords

  • Arginase
  • Arginine decarboxylase
  • Polyamines
  • Amino acids
  • DUR3
  • Nitrate reductase enzyme