Increasing nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is an urgent issue for improving crop yield, reducing N fertilizer demand, and more importantly, alleviating environmental pollution. In this study, we take a new strategy by enhancing N remobilization to improve NUE. The nitrate transporter NRT1.7 is responsible for loading excess nitrate stored in source leaves into phloem and facilitates nitrate allocation to sink leaves. Under N starvation, the nrt1.7 mutant exhibits growth retardation, indicating that NRT1.7-mediated source-to-sink remobilization of stored nitrate is important for sustaining growth in plants. To energize NRT1.7-mediated nitrate recycling, we introduced a hyperactive chimeric nitrate transporter NC4N driven by the NRT1.7 promoter into the nrt1.7 mutant. NRT1.7p::NC4N::3’ transgenic plants accumulated more nitrate in younger leaves, and 15NO3- tracing analysis revealed that more 15N was remobilized into sink tissues. Consistently, transgenic Arabidopsis, tobacco and rice plants showed improved growth or yield. Our study suggests that enhancing source-to-sink nitrate remobilization represents a new strategy for enhancing NUE and crop production.
Nature Plant highlights this finding by a “News and Views” https://www.nature.com/articles/s41477-020-00763-3