Nitrogen (N) is the mineral nutrient required in the greatest amount and its availability is a major factor limiting growth and development of plants. As sessile organisms, plants have evolved different strategies to adapt to changes in the availability and distribution of N in soils. These strategies include mechanisms that act at different levels of biological organization from the molecular to the ecosystem level. At the molecular level, plants can adjust their capacity to acquire different forms of N in a range of concentrations by modulating the expression and function of genes in different N uptake systems. Modulation of plant growth and development, most notably changes in the root system architecture, can also greatly impact plant N acquisition in the soil. At the organism and ecosystem levels, plants establish associations with diverse microorganisms to ensure adequate nutrition and N supply. These different adaptive mechanisms have been traditionally discussed separately in the literature. To understand plant N nutrition in the environment, an integrated view of all pathways contributing to plant N acquisition is required. Towards this goal, in this review the different mechanisms that plants utilize to maintain an adequate N supply are summarized and integrated.
- nitrogen acquisition