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Whole-plant and leaf nitrogen isotope composition are determined by the isotope ratio of the external nitrogen source and physiological mechanisms within the plant. Whole-plant isotope composition can reflect that of the nitrogen source when plant demand exceeds nitrogen supply. Uptake by mycorrhizae can cause the isotope ratio of the plant to deviate from the source. Intra-plant variation in isotope composition can be caused by multiple assimilation events, organ-specific loss of nitrogen, and resorption and reallocation of nitrogen. Future work must address acquisition of organic nitrogen from the soil solution, the role of mycorrhizae, and internal transformations within the plant. Published in Trends in Plant...