Nodulin 26 intrinsic proteins (NIPs) are plant-specific, highly conserved water and solute transport proteins with structural and functional homology to soybean nodulin 26. Arabidopsis thaliana contains nine NIP genes. In this study, it is shown that one of these, AtNIP2;1, is exquisitely sensitive to water logging and anoxia stress. Based on quantitative PCR and promoter::GUS experiments, AtNIP2;1 is expressed at a low basal level in the root tips and the vascular bundle of differentiated roots. Transcript levels are elevated acutely and rapidly upon water logging of root or leaf tissues, increasing 70-fold in roots within the 1st h of submersion. After this large initial increase, mRNA levels decline to steady state levels that remain over 10-fold higher by 6 h post-submersion. An even greater induction of AtNIP2;1 expression was observed upon anoxia challenge of Arabidopsis seedlings, with a 300-fold increase in AtNIP2;1 transcript observed by 2 h after the initiation of oxygen deprivation. Functional analysis of AtNIP2;1 expressed in Xenopus oocytes shows that the protein differs from soybean nodulin 26, showing minimal water and glycerol transport. Instead, AtNIP2;1 displays transport of lactic acid, with a preference for the protonated acidic form of this weak acid. Overall, the data suggest that AtNIP2;1 is an anaerobic-induced gene that encodes a lactic acid transporter and may play a role in adaptation to lactic fermentation under anaerobic stress.
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