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The nitrate/proton antiporter AtCLCa mediates nitrate accumulation in plant vacuoles


Nitrate, the major nitrogen source for most plants, is widely used as a fertilizer and as a result has become a predominant freshwater pollutant. Plants need nitrate for growth and store most of it in the central vacuole1. Some members of the chloride channel (CLC) protein family, such as the torpedo-fish ClC-0 and mammalian ClC-1, are anion channels2,3, whereas the bacterial ClC-ec1 and mammalian ClC-4 and ClC-5 have recently been characterized as Cl-/H+ exchangers with unknown cellular functions4,5,6. Plant members of the CLC family are proposed to be anion channels7,8 involved in nitrate homeostasis9; however, direct evidence for anion transport mediated by a plant CLC is still lacking. Here we show that Arabidopsis thaliana CLCa (AtCLCa) is localized to an intracellular membrane, the tonoplast of the plant vacuole, which is amenable to electrophysiological studies, and we provide direct evidence for its anion transport ability. We demonstrate that AtCLCa is able to accumulate specifically nitrate in the vacuole and behaves as a NO3-/H+ exchanger. For the first time, to our knowledge, the transport activity of a plant CLC is revealed, the antiporter mechanism of a CLC protein is investigated in a native membrane system, and this property is directly connected with its physiological role.

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Figure 1: AtCLCa resides in the tonoplast.
Figure 2: Whole-vacuole NO 3 - currents are abolished in vacuoles from clca knockout mutants.
Figure 3: AtCLCa mediates specific NO 3 - transport into the vacuole.
Figure 4: AtCLCa functions as a 2NO 3 - /1H + antiporter.


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We thank C. Lurin and C. Maurel for help at the initial stage of the project. We are grateful to S. Bolte for offering the confocal microscopy facilities of the Cell Biology Platform of IFR 87 “La Plante et son Environnement”. We would like to thank K. Czempinski for providing the pA7-GFP plasmid; P. Rea for anti-pyrophosphatase IgG; V. Lanquar for help in vacuole purification; and J. Scholz-Starke for reading the manuscript. This project was supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. A.DeA. and D.M. were funded by the European Research Training Network NICIP.

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Correspondence to H. Barbier-Brygoo.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Figure 1

Malate currents: clca-2 knock-out mutant vacuoles show wild-type malate currents. (PDF 106 kb)

Supplementary Figure 2

AtCLCa current in different cytosolic NO3- concentrations. I-V curves of AtCLCa current in different cytosolic NO3- concentrations normalised to capacitance. (PDF 63 kb)

Supplementary Figure 3

Conserved regions of CLC proteins. Sequence alignment of conserved regions of different CLC proteins. (PDF 135 kb)

Supplementary Notes

Cytosolic solutions used for selectivity experiments in Figure 3c and d. Equation used for deriving the H+/NO3- transport. Numerical calculations. (PDF 70 kb)

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De Angeli, A., Monachello, D., Ephritikhine, G. et al. The nitrate/proton antiporter AtCLCa mediates nitrate accumulation in plant vacuoles. Nature 442, 939–942 (2006).

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