Urea is the major nitrogen form supplied as fertilizer in agricultural plant production but also an important nitrogen metabolite in plants. We report the cloning and functional characterization of AtDUR3, a high-affinity urea transporter in plants. AtDUR3 contains 14 putative transmembrane-spanning domains and represents an individual member in Arabidopsis that belongs to a superfamily of sodium-solute symporters. Heterologous expression in urea uptake–defective yeast as well as two-electrode voltage clamp and uptake studies using 14 C-labeled urea in AtDUR3-expressing oocytes demonstrated that AtDUR3 mediates urea transport. In both heterologous systems, urea transport was stimulated at low pH. In oocytes, inward currents indicated that urea is cotransported with protons. By contrast, a supply of Na + ions could not stimulate urea transport. Transport of 14 C-labeled urea by AtDUR3 in oocytes exhibited saturation kinetics with a K m of ∼3 μM. AtDUR3 was expressed in shoots and roots and upregulated during early germination and under nitrogen deficiency in roots. We propose a role of AtDUR3 in urea uptake by plant cells at low external urea concentrations.
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