Nitrate, the major nitrogen source for plants, can be accumulated in the vacuole. Its transport across the vacuolar membrane is mediated by AtCLCa, an antiporter of the chloride channel (CLC) protein family. In contrast to other CLC family members, AtCLCa transports nitrate coupled to protons. Recently, the different behaviour towards nitrate of CLC proteins has been linked to the presence of a serine or proline in the selectivity filter motif GXGIP. By monitoring AtCLCa activity in its native environment, we show that if proline 160 in AtCLCa is changed to a serine (AtCLCa(P160S) ), the transporter loses its nitrate selectivity, but the anion proton exchange mechanism is unaffected. We also performed in vivo analyses in yeast and Arabidopsis. In contrast to native AtCLCa, expression of AtCLCa(P160S) does not complement either the ΔScCLC yeast mutant grown on nitrate or the nitrate under-accumulation phenotype of clca knockout plants. Our results confirm the significance of this amino acid in the conserved selectivity filter of CLC proteins and highlight the importance of the proline in AtCLCa for nitrate metabolism in Arabidopsis.
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