Identification of genes and their alleles capable of improving plant growth under low nitrogen (N) conditions is key for developing sustainable agriculture. Here, we show that a genome-wide association study using Arabidopsis thaliana accessions suggested an association between different magnitudes of N deficiency responses and diversity in NRT1.1/NPF6.3 that encodes a dual-affinity nitrate transporter involved in nitrate uptake by roots. Various analyses using accessions exhibiting reduced N deficiency responses revealed that enhanced NRT1.1 expression in shoots rather than in roots is responsible for better growth of Arabidopsis seedlings under N deficient conditions. Furthermore, polymorphisms that increased NRT1.1 promoter activity were identified in the NRT1.1 promoter sequences of the accessions analyzed. Hence, our data indicated that polymorphism-dependent activation of the NRT1.1 promoter in shoots could serve as a tool in molecular breeding programs for improving plant growth in low N environments.
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