Nitrite Transport Activity of a Novel HPP Family Protein Conserved in Cyanobacteria and Chloroplasts

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Some cyanobacterial genomes encode an integral membrane protein of the HPP family, which exhibited nitrite transport activity when expressed in the nitrite transport-less NA4 mutant of the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus strain PCC 7942. AT5G62720 and AT3G47980 were found to encode Arabidopsis homologs of the cyanobacterial protein. The product of AT5G62720 was localized to the chloroplast envelope membrane and was shown to confer nitrite uptake activity on the NA4 mutant when expressed with an N-terminally truncated transit peptide or as a fusion with the N-terminal region of the cyanobacterial HPP family protein. Kinetic analyses showed that the Arabidopsis protein has much higher affinity for nitrite (Km = 13 µM) than the cyanobacterial protein (Km = 150 µM). Illuminated chloroplasts isolated from the mutant lines of AT5G62720 showed much lower activity of nitrite uptake than the chloroplasts isolated from the wild-type Col-0 plants, while the chloroplasts of the mutants of AT1G68570 (AtNPF3.1), the gene previously reported to encode a plastid nitrite transporter AtNitr1, showed wild-type levels of nitrite uptake activity. AT3G47980 was expressed in roots but not in shoots. It has a putative transit peptide similar to that of AT5G62720 and its fusion with the N-terminal region of the cyanobacterial HPP protein showed low but significant activity of nitrite transport in the cyanobacterial cell. Transcription of AT5G62720 (AtNITR2;1) and AT3G47980 (AtNITR2;2) was stimulated by nitrate under the control of the NIN-like proteins, suggesting that the HPP proteins represent nitrate-inducible components of the nitrite transport system of plastids.

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