Effects of drought on nutrient uptake and the levels of nutrient-uptake proteins in roots of drought-sensitive and -tolerant grasses

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Climate change will increase drought in many regions of the world. Besides decreasing productivity, drought also decreases the concentration (%) of nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) in plants. We investigated if decreases in nutrient status during drought are correlated with decreases in levels of nutrient-uptake proteins in roots, which has not been quantified. Drought-sensitive (Hordeum vulgare, Zea mays) and -tolerant grasses (Andropogon gerardii) were harvested at mid and late drought, when we measured biomass, plant %N and P, root N- and P-uptake rates, and concentrations of major nutrient-uptake proteins in roots (NRT1 for NO3, AMT1 for NH4, and PHT1 for P). Drought reduced %N and P, indicating that it reduced nutrient acquisition more than growth. Decreases in P uptake with drought were correlated with decreases in both concentration and activity of P-uptake proteins, but decreases in N uptake were weakly correlated with levels of N-uptake proteins. Nutrient-uptake proteins per gram root decreased despite increases per gram total protein, because of the larger decreases in total protein per gram. Thus, drought-related decreases in nutrient concentration, especially %P, were likely caused, at least partly, by decreases in the concentration of root nutrient-uptake proteins in both drought-sensitive and -tolerant species.

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