Nitrate Transport, Sensing, and Responses in Plants

Mol Plant. 2016 Jun 6;9(6):837-56. doi: 10.1016/j.molp.2016.05.004. Epub 2016 May 19.


Nitrogen (N) is an essential macronutrient that affects plant growth and development. N is an important component of chlorophyll, amino acids, nucleic acids, and secondary metabolites. Nitrate is one of the most abundant N sources in the soil. Because nitrate and other N nutrients are often limiting, plants have developed sophisticated mechanisms to ensure adequate supply of nutrients in a variable environment. Nitrate is absorbed in the root and mobilized to other organs by nitrate transporters. Nitrate sensing activates signaling pathways that impinge upon molecular, metabolic, physiological, and developmental responses locally and at the whole plant level. With the advent of genomics technologies and genetic tools, important advances in our understanding of nitrate and other N nutrient responses have been achieved in the past decade. Furthermore, techniques that take advantage of natural polymorphisms present in divergent individuals from a single species have been essential in uncovering new components. However, there are still gaps in our understanding of how nitrate signaling affects biological processes in plants. Moreover, we still lack an integrated view of how all the regulatory factors identified interact or crosstalk to orchestrate the myriad N responses plants typically exhibit. In this review, we provide an updated overview of mechanisms by which nitrate is sensed and transported throughout the plant. We discuss signaling components and how nitrate sensing crosstalks with hormonal pathways for developmental responses locally and globally in the plant. Understanding how nitrate impacts on plant metabolism, physiology, and growth and development in plants is key to improving crops for sustainable agriculture.

Keywords: N-foraging; hormones; nitrate; nitrate transporters.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anion Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism
  • Nitrates / metabolism*
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Anion Transport Proteins
  • Nitrates
  • nitrate transporters