Transport of dicarboxylates across the chloroplast envelope plays an important role in transferring carbon skeletons to the nitrogen assimilation pathway and exporting reducing equivalent to the cytosol to prevent photo-inhibition (the malate valve). It was previously shown that the Arabidopsis plastidic 2-oxoglutarate/malate transporter (AtpOMT1) and the general dicarboxylate transporter (AtpDCT1) play crucial roles at the interface between carbon and nitrogen metabolism. However, based on the in vitro transport properties of the recombinant transporters, it was hypothesized that AtpOMT1 might play a dual role, also functioning as an oxaloacetate/malate transporter, which is a crucial but currently unidentified component of the chloroplast malate valve. Here, we test this hypothesis using Arabidopsis T-DNA insertional mutants of AtpOMT1. Transport studies revealed a dramatically reduced rate of oxaloacetate uptake into chloroplasts isolated from the knockout plant. CO(2) -dependent O(2) evolution assays showed that cytosolic oxaloacetate is efficiently transported into chloroplasts mainly by AtpOMT1, and supported the absence of additional oxaloacetate transporters. These findings strongly indicate that the high-affinity oxaloacetate transporter in Arabidopsis chloroplasts is AtpOMT1. Further, the knockout plants showed enhanced photo-inhibition under high light due to greater accumulation of reducing equivalents in the stroma, indicating malfunction of the malate valve in the knockout plants. The knockout mutant showed a phenotype consistent with reductions in 2-oxoglutarate transport, glutamine synthetase/glutamate synthase activity, subsequent amino acid biosynthesis and photorespiration. Our results demonstrate that AtpOMT1 acts bi-functionally as an oxaloacetate/malate transporter in the malate valve and as a 2-oxoglutarate/malate transporter mediating carbon/nitrogen metabolism.
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