Zea3: a pleiotropic mutation affecting cotyledon development, cytokinin resistance and carbon-nitrogen metabolism

Plant J. 1994 Apr;5(4):481-91. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-313x.1994.5040481.x.


When photomorphogenesis takes place during early plant development, the cotyledons undergo a metabolic transition from heterotrophic sink metabolism to autotrophic source metabolism. A mutant screen was devised for seedlings affected in the regulation of nitrate assimilation during this early sink-source transition in Nicotiana plumbaginifolia. A mutant (EMS 203.6) was isolated for its inability to grow on low nitrate concentration. In contrast to wild-type (WT) plants, the mutant cotyledons remained tightly attached to each other throughout seedling development. It was found that a low carbon/nitrogen ratio (C/N ratio) in the medium was required for mutant growth. The higher the ratio was, the more the growth was inhibited. Mutant EMS 203.6 accumulated all amino acids in permissive conditions (low C/N ratio), and all amino acids and sugars also in selective (high C/N ratio) conditions. In addition, sucrose in the medium repressed light-regulated genes involved in nitrate assimilation and in photosynthesis in the mutant but not in the WT plants. The mutation was mapped to the Zea3 complementation group which confers resistance to zeatin. This zeatin resistance was associated with a hypertrophy of mutant cotyledons in response to cytokinin. Both cytokinin resistance and sensitivity to a high C/N ratio were not observed in etiolated mutant seedlings and were restricted to the jointed-cotyledon developmental stage. Previous physiological studies showed evidence for a role of cytokinins in the expression of nitrate reductase. Here, the first genetic evidence for a link between carbohydrate/nitrogen metabolism and cytokinin action during early development is provided.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Carbon / metabolism*
  • Drug Resistance / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation / radiation effects
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • Light
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Mutation*
  • Nitrates
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Sucrose / metabolism
  • Tobacco / drug effects
  • Tobacco / genetics*
  • Tobacco / growth & development
  • Tobacco / metabolism
  • Zeatin / pharmacology*


  • Amino Acids
  • Nitrates
  • Sucrose
  • Carbon
  • Zeatin
  • Nitrogen