Amides and acidic amino acids represent the major long distance transport forms of organic nitrogen. Six amino acid permeases (AAPs) from Arabidopsis mediating transport of a wide spectrum of amino acids were isolated. AAPs are distantly related to plasma membrane amino acid transport systems N and A and to vesicular transporters such as VGAT from mammals. A detailed comparison of the properties by electrophysiology after heterologous expression in Xenopus oocytes shows that, although capable of recognizing and transporting a wide spectrum of amino acids, individual AAPs differ with respect to specificity. Apparent substrate affinities are influenced by structure and net charge and vary by three orders of magnitude. AAPs mediate cotransport of neutral amino acids with one proton. Uncharged forms of acidic and basic amino acids are cotransported with one proton. Since all AAPs are differentially expressed, different tissues may be supplied with a different spectrum of amino acids. AAP3 and AAP5 are the only transporters mediating efficient transport of the basic amino acids. In vivo competition shows that the capability to transport basic amino acids in planta might be overruled by excess amides and acidic amino acids in the apoplasm. With the exception of AAP6, AAPs do not recognize aspartate; only AAP6 has an affinity for aspartate in the physiologically relevant range. This property is due to an overall higher affinity of AAP6 for neutral and acidic amino acids. Thus AAP6 may serve a different role either in cooperating with the lower affinity systems to acquire amino acids in the low concentration range, as a system responsible for aspartate transport or as an uptake system from the xylem. In agreement, a yeast mutant deficient in acidic amino acid uptake at low aspartate concentrations was complemented only by AAP6. Taken together, the AAPs transport neutral, acidic and cationic amino acids, including the major transport forms, i.e. glutamine, asparagine and glutamate. Increasing proton concentrations strongly activate transport of amino acids. Thus the actual apoplasmic concentration of amino acids and the pH will determine what is transported in vivo, i.e. major amino acids such as glutamine, asparagine, and glutamate will be mobilized preferentially.