Amino-acid influx at the soil-root interface of Zea mays L. and its implications in the rhizosphere

D. L. Jones, P. R. Darrah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

212 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of the study was to investigate the ability of intact Zea mays. L. roots to regulate the amount of free amino-acids present in the rhizosphere. Using metabolic inhibitors it was demonstrated that the release of amino-acids from the root occurred by passive diffusion, whilst free amino-acids outside the root could be re-captured by an active transport mechanism. The influx of amino-acids into the root was shown to be relatively independent of spatial location along the root and was little affected by the presence of other organic compounds in solution. It was deduced from root concentration gradients that the main site of amino-acid exudation was at root tips. Amino-acid uptake by the root was shown to be independent of both inorganic-N concentration and the presence of other organic solutes in solution. A computer simulation model was constructed to assess the contribution of organic-N uptake (acidic, basic and neutral amino-acids) to the plant's N budget, in comparison to the inorganic solutes NO3 and NH4. Simulations of N uptake from a 0.5 mm radius rhizosphere indicated that when inorganic-N concentrations in soil were limiting (≤0.1 μmoles cm-3 soil), the uptake of amino-N accounted for up to 90% the total N taken up by the roots. In situations where fertilizer inputs are high, and levels of organic matter in soil are low, the contribution of amino-N might still be expected to form <30% of the total N taken up by the root system. It was concluded that the uptake of amino-acids from the rhizosphere may be important in both N nutrition and in the minimization of root C and N losses to the soil. Consequently this may be important in governing the size of the rhizosphere microbial population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 1994
Externally publishedYes


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