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Open Access Research article

Ornithine-δ-aminotransferase is essential for Arginine Catabolism but not for Proline Biosynthesis

Dietmar Funck1*, Bettina Stadelhofer2 and Wolfgang Koch2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, Biology Section, University of Konstanz, Universitätsstraße 10, 78464 Konstanz, Germany

2 ZMBP Plant Physiology, University of Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 1, 72076 Tübingen, Germany

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BMC Plant Biology 2008, 8:40  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-40

Published: 17 April 2008

Abstract

Background

Like many other plant species, Arabidopsis uses arginine (Arg) as a storage and transport form of nitrogen, and proline (Pro) as a compatible solute in the defence against abiotic stresses causing water deprivation. Arg catabolism produces ornithine (Orn) inside mitochondria, which was discussed controversially as a precursor for Pro biosynthesis, alternative to glutamate (Glu).

Results

We show here that ornithine-δ-aminotransferase (δOAT, At5g46180), the enzyme converting Orn to pyrroline-5-carboxylate (P5C), is localised in mitochondria and is essential for Arg catabolism. Wildtype plants could readily catabolise supplied Arg and Orn and were able to use these amino acids as the only nitrogen source. Deletion mutants of δOAT, however, accumulated urea cycle intermediates when fed with Arg or Orn and were not able to utilize nitrogen provided as Arg or Orn. Utilisation of urea and stress induced Pro accumulation were not affected in T-DNA insertion mutants with a complete loss of δOAT expression.

Conclusion

Our findings indicate that δOAT feeds P5C exclusively into the catabolic branch of Pro metabolism, which yields Glu as an end product. Conversion of Orn to Glu is an essential route for recovery of nitrogen stored or transported as Arg. Pro biosynthesis occurs predominantly or exclusively via the Glu pathway in Arabidopsis and does not depend on Glu produced by Arg and Orn catabolism.