Cortex cell hydraulic conductivity, endodermal apoplastic barriers and root hydraulics change in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) in response to a low supply of N and P.Ann Bot. 2019 11 27; 124(6):1091-1107.AB
Mineral nutrient limitation affects the water flow through plants. We wanted to test on barley whether any change in root-to-shoot ratio in response to low supply of nitrogen and phosphate is accompanied by changes in root and cell hydraulic properties and involves changes in aquaporin (AQP) gene expression and root apoplastic barriers (suberin lamellae, Casparian bands).
Plants were grown hydroponically on complete nutrient solution or on solution containing only 3.3 % or 2.5 % of the control level of nutrient. Plants were analysed when they were 14-18 d old.
Nutrient-limited plants adjusted water flow to an increased root-to-shoot surface area ratio through a reduction in root hydraulic conductivity (Lp) as determined through exudation analyses. Cortex cell Lp (cell pressure probe analyses) decreased in the immature but not the mature region of the main axis of seminal roots and in primary lateral roots. The aquaporin inhibitor HgCl2 reduced root Lp most in nutrient-sufficient control plants. Exchange of low-nutrient for control media caused a rapid (20-80 min) and partial recovery in Lp, though cortex cell Lp did not increase in any of the root regions analysed. The gene expression level (qPCR analyses) of five plasma membrane-localized AQP isoforms did not change in bulk root extracts, while the formation of apoplastic barriers increased considerably along the main axis of root and lateral roots in low-nutrient treatments.
Decrease in root and cortex cell Lp enables the adjustment of root water uptake to increased root-to-shoot area ratio in nutrient-limited plants. Aquaporins are the prime candidate to play a key role in this response. Modelling of water flow suggests that some of the reduction in root Lp is due to increased formation of apoplastic barriers.