The uptake of the unnatural amino acid α-aminoisobutyric acid (AIB) and glutamine by developing soybean ( Glycine max Merr. cv Chippewa 64) embryos was investigated. In freshly excised embryos, the accumulation ratio (cytoplasmic concentration/external concentration) of AIB did not exceed 1.0. After an 18-hour preincubation in nitrogen-free medium the accumulation ratio of AIB exceeded 4.5 at an external AIB concentration of 10 micromolar. This indicates the derepression of an active amino acid uptake mechanism operative at low external amino acid concentration. The presence of sucrose, NH 4 NO 3 , or glutamine during a 21-hour preincubation prior to measuring glutamine uptake inhibited the enhancement of uptake by 43%, 51%, and 96%, respectively. The time course of the decline in free amino acids and the time course of enhancement of amino acid uptake was not consistent with enhanced uptake resulting from relief of transinhibition, but suggested instead the derepression of synthesis of new carriers. The time course of enhancement of amino acid uptake was paralleled by an increase in glutamine-induced depolarization of the membrane potential. The kinetics of glutamine uptake indicated the presence of a saturable and a nonsaturable component of uptake. The saturable component of uptake is attributed to a mechanism of amino acid-H + cotransport which is derepressed by nitrogen and/or carbon starvation. At physiological concentrations of amino acids, uptake through the saturable system in freshly excised embryos is negligible. Thus, uptake through the nonsaturable system is of primary importance in the nitrogen nutrition of developing soybean embryos.
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