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The analysis of primary and secondary nitrogen metabolism in plants by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is comprehensively reviewed. NMR is a versatile analytical tool, and the combined use of (1)H, (2)H, (13)C, (14)N and (15)N NMR allows detailed investigation of the acquisition, assimilation and metabolism of nitrogen. The analysis of tissue extracts can be complemented by the in vivo NMR analysis of functioning tissues and cell suspensions, and by the application of solid state NMR techniques. Moreover stable isotope labelling with (2)H-, (13)C- and (15)N-labelled precursors provides direct insight into specific pathways, with the option of both time-course and steady state analysis increasing the potential value of the approach. The scope of the NMR method, and its contribution to studies of plant nitrogen metabolism, are illustrated with a wide range of examples. These include studies of the GS/GOGAT pathway of ammonium assimilation, investigations of the metabolism of glutamate, glycine and other amino acids, and applications to tropane alkaloid metabolism. The continuing development of the NMR technique, together with potential applications in the emerging fields of metabolomics and metabolic flux analysis, leads to the conclusion that NMR will play an increasingly valuable role in the analysis of plant nitrogen metabolism.

Original publication




Journal article


Photosynth Res

Publication Date





163 - 180


Carbon Isotopes, Deuterium, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Nitrogen, Nitrogen Isotopes, Plants