Transient Responses of Cell Turgor and Growth of Maize Roots as Affected by Changes in Water Potential.


Transient responses of cell turgor (P) and root elongation to changes in water potential were measured in maize (Zea mays L.) to evaluate mechanisms of adaptation to water stress. Changes of water potential were induced by exposing roots to solutions of KCl and mannitol (osmotic pressure about 0.3 MPa). Prior to a treatment, root elongation was about 1.2 mm h-1 and P was about 0.67 MPa across the cortex of the expansion zone (3-10 mm behind the root tip). Upon addition of an osmoticum, P decreased rapidly and growth stopped completely at pressure below approximately 0.6 MPa, which indicated that the yield threshold (Ytrans,1) was just below the initial turgor. Turgor recovered partly within the next 30 min and reached a new steady value at about 0.53 MPa. The root continued to elongate as soon as P rose above a new threshold (Ytrans,2) of about 0.45 MPa. The time between Ytrans,1 and Ytrans,2 was about 10 min. During this transition turgor gradients of as much as 0.15 MPa were measured across the cortex. They resulted from a faster rate of turgor recovery of cells deeper inside the tissue compared with cells near the root periphery. Presumably, the phloem was the source of the compounds for the osmotic adjustment. Turgor recovery was restricted to the expansion zone, as was confirmed by measurements of pressure kinetics in mature root tissue. Withdrawal of the osmoticum caused an enormous transient increase of elongation, which was related to only a small initial increase of P. Throughout the experiment, the relationship between root elongation rate and turgor was nonlinear. Consequently, when Y were calculated from steady-state conditions of P and root elongation before and after the osmotic treatment, Yss was only 0.21 MPa and significantly smaller compared with the values obtained from direct measurements (0.42-0.64 MPa). Thus, we strongly emphasize the need for measurements of short-term responses of elongation and turgor to determine cell wall mechanics appropriately. Our results indicate that the rate of solute flow into the growth zone could become rate-limiting for cell expansion under conditions of mild water stress.

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