Plant Biotechnology Reports

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 47–56 | Cite as

Overexpression of the maize ZmAMT1;1a gene enhances root ammonium uptake efficiency under low ammonium nutrition

  • Yang Zhao
  • Zhi Liu
  • Fengying Duan
  • Xia An
  • Xiangguo Liu
  • Dongyun Hao
  • Riliang Gu
  • Zhangkui Wang
  • Fanjun Chen
  • Lixing Yuan
Original Article


High-affinity ammonium uptake in maize roots is mainly mediated by AMT1-type ammonium transporters ZmAMT1;1a and ZmAMT1;3, but whether the increased expression of ZmAMTs genes is able to enhance ammonium uptake capacity and subsequently improves overall nitrogen use efficiency remains to be elucidated. In this work, ZmAMT1;1a-overexpression transgenic maize plants were generated with the elevated levels of transcripts and proteins, and phenotypically analyzed together with wild-type plants grown in nutrient solution under two regimes of ammonium supply. Under low ammonium nutrition (0.04 mM), in relative to wild-type plants, the maize transgenic lines showed an approximately 17% increases in the high-affinity ammonium uptake capacity of roots as revealed by 15N-labeled ammonium influx assay and further contributed to about 7% increases in the total nitrogen uptake at the whole plant level. By contrast, when ammonium was supplied in high amounts (1 mM), wild-type plants expressed higher levels of ZmAMT1;1a, but exhibited a lower ammonium uptake capacity in roots. Furthermore, the transgenic maize line accumulated more amounts of ZmAMT1;1a protein, but did not translate into an enhanced ammonium acquisition, suggesting a possible post-translational down-regulation of ZmAMT1;1a by high ammonium. This study proved the possibility to enhance ammonium acquisition by elevating ZmAMTs expression in maize roots and provided an effective transgenic approach on developing high nitrogen use efficient maize cultivars.


AMT Ammonium uptake Nitrogen use efficiency Transgenic plants Post-translational regulation Zea mays 



This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 31430095 and 31471934) and the Ministry of Agriculture of China (Grant No. 2016ZX08003005-004).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11816_2018_471_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 17 KB)


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Copyright information

© Korean Society for Plant Biotechnology and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Nutrition, Key Laboratory of Plant-Soil Interactions, MOE, Center for Resources, Environment and Food SecurityChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Center for Crop Cultivation and Farming System, Institute of Crop SciencesChinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Argo-Biotechnology Research InstituteJilin Academy of Agricultural SciencesChangchunChina

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