Transporters for ammonium, amino acids and peptides are expressed in pitchers of the carnivorous plant Nepenthes

Waltraud Schulze, Wolf B. Frommer, John M. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Insect capture and digestion contribute substantially to the nitrogen budget of carnivorous plants. In Nepenthes, insect-derived nitrogenous compounds are imported from the pitcher fluid and transported throughout the plant via the vascular tissue to support growth. Import and distribution of nutrients may require transmembrane nitrogen transporters. Representatives of three classes of genes encoding transporters for the nitrogenous compounds ammonium, amino acids and peptides were identified in Nepenthes pitchers. The expression at the cellular level of an ammonium transporter gene, three amino acid transporter genes, and one peptide transporter gene were investigated in the insect trapping organs of Nepenthes. Expression of the ammonium transporter gene NaAMT1 was detected in the head cells of digestive glands in the lower part of the pitcher where NaAMT1 may function in ammonium uptake from the pitcher fluid. One amino acid transporter gene, NaAAP1, was expressed in bundle sheath cells surrounding the vascular tissue. To understand the locations where transmembrane transport could be required within the pitcher, symplasmic and apoplasmic continuity was probed using fluorescent dyes. Symplasmic connections were not found between cortical cells and vascular bundles. Therefore, the amino acid transporter encoded by NaAAP1 may be involved in transport of amino acids into the vascular tissue. In contrast, expression of the peptide transporter gene NaNTR1 was detected in phloem cells of the vascular tissue within pitchers. NaNTR1 may function in the export of nitrogen from the pitcher by loading peptides into the phloem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-646
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1999


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