The molecular physiology of ammonium uptake and retrieval

Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2000 Jun;3(3):254-61.


Plants are able to take up ammonium from the soil, or through symbiotic interactions with microorganisms, via the root system. Using functional complementation of yeast mutants, it has been possible to identify a new class of membrane proteins, the ammonium transporter/methylammonium permease (AMT/MEP) family, that mediate secondary active ammonium uptake in eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms. In plants, the AMT gene family can be subdivided according to their amino-acid sequences into three subfamilies: a large subfamily of AMT1 genes and two additional subfamilies each with single members (LeAMT1;3 from tomato and AtAMT2;1 from Arabidopsis thaliana). These transporters vary especially in their kinetic properties and regulatory mechanism. High-affinity transporters are induced in nitrogen-starved roots, whereas other transporters may be considered as the 'work horses' that are active when conditions are conducive to ammonium assimilation. The expression of several AMTs in root hairs further supports a role in nutrient acquisition. These studies provide basic information that will be needed for the dissection of nitrogen uptake by plants at the molecular level and for determining the role of individual AMTs in nutrient uptake and potentially in nutrient efficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology
  • Cation Transport Proteins*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Plant Proteins*
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / metabolism*
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / pharmacokinetics*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • ammonium transporters, plant