Malate plays a central role in plant nutrition

J. Schulze, M. Tesfaye, R. H.M.G. Litjens, B. Bucciarelli, G. Trepp, S. Miller, D. Samac, D. Allan, C. P. Vance

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Malate occupies a central role in plant metabolism. Its importance in plant mineral nutrition is reflected by the role it plays in symbiotic nitrogen fixation, phosphorus acquisition, and aluminum tolerance. In nitrogen-fixing root nodules, malate is the primary substrate for bacteroid respiration, thus fueling nitrogenase. Malate also provides the carbon skeletons for assimilation of fixed nitrogen into amino acids. During phosphorus deficiency, malate is frequently secreted from roots to release unavailable forms of phosphorus. Malate is also involved with plant adaptation to aluminum toxicity. To define the genetic and biochemical regulation of malate formation in plant nutrition we have isolated and characterized genes involved in malate metabolism from nitrogen-fixing root nodules of alfalfa and those involved in organic acid excretion from phosphorus-deficient proteoid roots of white lupin. Moreover, we have overexpressed malate dehydrogenase in alfalfa in attempts to improve nutrient acquisition. This report is an overview of our efforts to understand and modify malate metabolism, particularly in the legumes alfalfa and white lupin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-139
Number of pages7
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2002


  • Aluminum tolerance
  • Malate dehydrogenase
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Organic acids
  • Phosphorus stress


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