Environmental factors, such as ultraviolet-B (UV-B) irradiation, have the ability to affect pathways such as nitrogen metabolism. As fixed nitrogen is the keystone mineral nutrient that controls grain crop yield, any alteration in this cycle can be detrimental to plant productivity. Nitrate reductase enzyme activity is responsible for the reduction of nitrate to nitrite, and nitrate is the major form of nitrogen assimilated in plants. In maize (Zea mays L.) production, nitrate assimilation kinetics are important for both high- and low-input agricultural systems. Nitrate reductase protein activity is controlled by phosphatases and kinases. Nitrate reductase activity is responsive to environmental signals such as light-dark cycles and UV-B radiation, although the regulatory controls are not yet fully understood. We have determined the location of maize genetic factors that control nitrate reductase activity and the extent of contribution of each of these factors, both locally in the leaf tissue and via long-distance signaling loci that affect root nitrate reductase activity upon leaf UV irradiation. In the IBM94 recombinant inbred mapping population, the loci controlling regulation of nitrate reductase activity under UV-B map to different positions than the loci controlling nitrate reductase activity in unexposed plants.
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