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Plant Physiol. 1998 Nov;118(3):975-86.

Drying increases intracellular partitioning of amphiphilic substances into the lipid phase. Impact On membrane permeability and significance for desiccation tolerance

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  • 1Timiryazev Institute of Plant Physiology, Botanicheskaja 35, Moscow, 127276, Russia (E.A.G.).


Previously we proposed that endogenous amphiphilic substances may partition from the aqueous cytoplasm into the lipid phase during dehydration of desiccation-tolerant organ(ism)s and vice versa during rehydration. Their perturbing presence in membranes could thus explain the transient leakage from imbibing organisms. To study the mechanism of this phenomenon, amphiphilic nitroxide spin probes were introduced into the pollen of a model organism, Typha latifolia, and their partitioning behavior during dehydration and rehydration was analyzed by electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy. In hydrated pollen the spin probes mainly occurred in the aqueous phase; during dehydration, however, the amphiphilic spin probes partitioned into the lipid phase and had disappeared from the aqueous phase below 0.4 g water g-1 dry weight. During rehydration the probes reappeared in the aqueous phase above 0.4 g water g-1 dry weight. The partitioning back into the cytoplasm coincided with the decrease of the initially high plasma membrane permeability. A charged polar spin probe was trapped in the cytoplasm during drying. Liposome experiments showed that partitioning of an amphiphilic spin probe into the bilayer during dehydration caused transient leakage during rehydration. This was also observed with endogenous amphipaths that were extracted from pollen, implying similar partitioning behavior. In view of the fluidizing effect on membranes and the antioxidant properties of many endogenous amphipaths, we suggest that partitioning with drying may be pivotal to desiccation tolerance, despite the risk of imbibitional leakage.

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