Mutant plants defective in the assimilation of nitrate can be selected by their resistance to the herbicide chlorate. In Arabidopsis thaliana, mutations at any one of nine distinct loci confer chlorate resistance. Only one of the CHL genes, CHL3, has been shown genetically to be a nitrate reductase (NR) structural gene (NIA2) even though two NR genes (NIA1 and NIA2) have been cloned from the Arabidopsis genome. Plants in which the NIA2 gene has been deleted retain only 10% of the wild-type shoot NR activity and grow normally with nitrate as the sole nitrogen source. Using mutagenized seeds from the NIA2 deletion mutant and a modified chlorate selection protocol, we have identified the first mutation in the NIA1 NR structural gene. nia1, nia2 double mutants have only 0.5% of wild-type shoot NR activity and display very poor growth on media with nitrate as the only form of nitrogen. The nia1-1 mutation is a single nucleotide substitution that converts an alanine to a threonine in a highly conserved region of the molybdenum cofactor-binding domain of the NR protein. These results show that the NIA1 gene encodes a functional NR protein that contributes to the assimilation of nitrate in Arabidopsis.