Abundant nitrogen is required for the optimal growth and development of plants, while numerous biotic and abiotic factors that consume soil nitrogen frequently create a nitrogen limitation growth condition. To cope with this, plants have evolved a suite of adaptive responses to nitrogen limitation. However, the molecular mechanism governing the adaptability of plants to nitrogen limitation is totally unknown because no reported mutant defines this trait. Here we isolated an Arabidopsis mutant, nla (nitrogen limitation adaptation), and identified the NLA gene as an essential component in this molecular mechanism. Supplied with insufficient inorganic nitrogen (nitrate or ammonium), the nla mutant failed to develop the essential adaptive responses to nitrogen limitation, but senesced much earlier and more rapidly than did the wild type. Under other stress conditions including low phosphorus nutrient, drought and high temperature, the nla mutant did not show this early senescence phenotype, but closely resembled the wild type in growth and development. Map-based cloning of NLA revealed that this gene encodes a RING-type ubiquitin ligase, and nla is a deletion mutation which does not code for the RING domain in the NLA protein. The NLA protein is localized to the nuclear speckles, where this protein interacts with the Arabidopsis ubiquitin conjugase 8 (AtUBC8). In the nla mutant, the deletion of the RING domain from NLA altered its subcellular localization, disrupted the interaction between NLA and AtUBC8 and caused the early senescence phenotype induced by low inorganic nitrogen. All the results indicate that NLA is a positive regulator for the development of the adaptability of Arabidopsis to nitrogen limitation.