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Int J Plant Sci. 1993;154(1):10-21.

Water uptake by growing cells: an assessment of the controlling roles of wall relaxation, solute uptake, and hydraulic conductance.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802.


Growing plant cells increase in volume principally by water uptake into the vacuole. There are only three general mechanisms by which a cell can modulate the process of water uptake: (a) by relaxing wall stress to reduce cell turgor pressure (thereby reducing cell water potential), (b) by modifying the solute content of the cell or its surroundings (likewise affecting water potential), and (c) by changing the hydraulic conductance of the water uptake pathway (this works only for cells remote from water potential equilibrium). Recent studies supporting each of these potential mechanisms are reviewed and critically assessed. The importance of solute uptake and hydraulic conductance is advocated by some recent studies, but the evidence is indirect and conclusions remain controversial. For most growing plant cells with substantial turgor pressure, it appears that reduction in cell turgor pressure, as a consequence of wall relaxation, serves as the major initiator and control point for plant cell enlargement. Two views of wall relaxation as a viscoelastic or a chemorheological process are compared and distinguished.

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