The NpNRT2.1 gene encodes a putative inducible component of the high-affinity nitrate (NO3-) uptake system in Nicotiana plumbaginifolia. Here we report functional and physiological analyses of transgenic plants expressing the NpNRT2.1 coding sequence fused to the CaMV 35S or rolD promoters. Irrespective of the level of NO3- supplied, NO3- contents were found to be remarkably similar in wild-type and transgenic plants. Under specific conditions (growth on 10 mM NO3-), the steady-state NpNRT2. 1 mRNA level resulting from the deregulated transgene expression was accompanied by an increase in 15NO3- influx measured in the low concentration range. This demonstrates for the first time that the NRT2.1 sequence codes a limiting element of the inducible high-affinity transport system. Both 15NO3- influx and mRNA levels decreased in the wild type after exposure to ammonium, in agreement with previous results from many species. Surprisingly, however, influx was also markedly decreased in transgenic plants, despite stable levels of transgene expression in independent transformants after ammonium addition. We conclude that the conditions associated with the supply of a reduced nitrogen source such as ammonium, or with the generation of a further downstream metabolite, probably exert a repressive effect on NO3- influx at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels.