*Nitrogen assimilation in leaves requires primary NH(2) acceptors that, in turn, originate from primary carbon metabolism. Respiratory metabolism is believed to provide such acceptors (such as 2-oxoglutarate), so that day respiration is commonly seen as a cornerstone for nitrogen assimilation into glutamate in illuminated leaves. However, both glycolysis and day respiratory CO(2) evolution are known to be inhibited by light, thereby compromising the input of recent photosynthetic carbon for glutamate production. *In this study, we carried out isotopic labelling experiments with (13)CO(2) and (15)N-ammonium nitrate on detached leaves of rapeseed (Brassica napus), and performed (13)C- and (15)N-nuclear magnetic resonance analyses. *Our results indicated that the production of (13)C-glutamate and (13)C-glutamine under a (13)CO(2) atmosphere was very weak, whereas (13)C-glutamate and (13)C-glutamine appeared in both the subsequent dark period and the next light period under a (12)CO(2) atmosphere. Consistently, the analysis of heteronuclear ((13)C-(15)N) interactions within molecules indicated that most (15)N-glutamate and (15)N-glutamine molecules were not (13)C labelled after (13)C/(15)N double labelling. That is, recent carbon atoms (i.e. (13)C) were hardly incorporated into glutamate, but new glutamate molecules were synthesized, as evidenced by (15)N incorporation. *We conclude that the remobilization of night-stored molecules plays a significant role in providing 2-oxoglutarate for glutamate synthesis in illuminated rapeseed leaves, and therefore the natural day : night cycle seems critical for nitrogen assimilation.