EgNRT2.3 and EgNAR2 expression are controlled by nitrogen deprivation and encode proteins that function as a two-component nitrate uptake system in oil palm

Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) is an important crop for oil and biodiesel production. Oil palm plantations require extensive fertilizer additions to achieve a high yield. Fertilizer application decisions and management for oil palm farming rely on leaf tissue and soil nutrient analyses with little information available to describe the key players for nutrient uptake. A molecular understanding of how nutrients, especially nitrogen (N), are taken up in oil palm is very important to improve fertilizer use and formulation practice in oil palm plantations. In this work, two nitrate uptake genes in oil palm, EgNRT2.3 and EgNAR2, were cloned and characterized. Spatial expression analysis showed high expression of these two genes was mainly found in un-lignified young roots. Interestingly, EgNRT2.3 and EgNAR2 were up-regulated by N deprivation, but their expression pattern depended on the form of N source. Promoter analysis of these two genes confirmed the presence of regulatory elements that support these expression patterns. The Xenopus oocyte assay showed that EgNRT2.3 and EgNAR2 had to act together to take up nitrate. The results suggest that EgNRT2.3 and EgNAR2 act as a two-component nitrate uptake system in oil palm.