"Biphasic Adaptive Activity of Plant Nitrate Transporter NRT1.1"
Defective nitrate signaling in plants causes disorder in nitrogen metabolism, and it negatively affects nitrate transport systems, which toggle between high- and low-affinity modes in variable soil nitrate conditions. Recent discovery of a plasma membrane nitrate transceptor protein NRT1.1—a transporter cum sensor—provides a clue on this toggling mechanism. However, the general mechanistic description still remains poorly understood. Here, we illustrate adaptive responses and regulation of NRT1.1-mediated nitrate signaling in a wide range of extracellular nitrate concentrations. The results show that the homodimeric structure of NRT1.1 and its dimeric switch play an important role in eliciting specific cytosolic calcium waves sensed by the calcineurin-B-like calcium sensor CBL9, which activates the kinase CIPK23, in low nitrate concentration that is, however, impeded in high nitrate concentration. Nitrate binding at the high-affinity unit initiates NRT1.1 dimer decoupling and priming of the Thr101 site for phosphorylation by CIPK23. This phosphorylation stabilizes the NRT1.1 monomeric state, acting as a high-affinity nitrate transceptor. However, nitrate binding in both monomers, retaining the unmodified NRT1.1 state through dimerization, attenuates CIPK23 activity and thereby maintains the low-affinity mode of nitrate signaling and transport. This phosphorylation-led modulation of NRT1.1 activity shows bistable behavior controlled by an incoherent feedforward loop, which integrates nitrate-induced positive and negative regulatory effects on CIPK23. These results, therefore, advance our molecular understanding of adaptation in fluctuating nutrient availability and are a way forward for improving plant nitrogen use efficiency.