Nitrification results in poor nitrogen (N) recovery and negative environmental impacts in most agricultural systems. Some plant species release secondary metabolites from their roots that inhibit nitrification, a phenomenon known as biological nitrification inhibition (BNI). Here, we attempt to characterize BNI in sorghum (Sorghum bicolor).In solution culture, the effect of N nutrition and plant age was studied on BNI activity from roots. A bioluminescence assay using recombinant Nitrosomonas europaea was employed to determine the inhibitory effect of root exudates. One major active constituent was isolated by activity-guided HPLC fractionations. The structure was analysed using NMR and mass spectrometry. Properties and the 70% inhibitory concentration (IC70) of this compound were determined by in vitro assay.Sorghum had significant BNI capacity, releasing 20 allylthiourea units (ATU) g(-1) root DW d(-1). Release of BNI compounds increased with growth stage and concentration of NH4+ supply. NH4+-grown plants released several-fold higher BNI compounds than NO3--grown plants. The active constituent was identified as methyl 3-(4-hydroxyphenyl) propionate.BNI compound release from roots is a physiologically active process, stimulated by the presence of NH4+. Methyl 3-(4-hydroxyphenyl) propionate is the first compound purified from the root exudates of any species; this is an important step towards better understanding BNI in sorghum.
Zakir, H. A. K. M., Subbarao, G. V., Pearse, S., Gopalakrishnan, S., Ito, O., Ishikawa, T., ... Yoshida, M. (2008). Detection, isolation and characterization of a root-exuded compound, methyl 3-(4-hydroxyphenyl) propionate, responsible for biological nitrification inhibition by sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). New Phytologist, 180(2), 442-451. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2008.02576.x