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Plant Physiol. 1987 Aug;84(4):1220-32.

Water transport in maize roots : measurement of hydraulic conductivity, solute permeability, and of reflection coefficients of excised roots using the root pressure probe.

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  • 1Institut für Radioagronomie der Kernforschungsanlage Jülich, Postfach 1913, D-5170 Jülich, Federal Republic of Germany.


A root pressure probe has been used to measure the root pressure (P(r)) exerted by excised main roots of young maize plants (Zea Mays L.). Defined gradients of hydrostatic and osmotic pressure could be set up between root xylem and medium to induce radial water flows across the root cylinder in both directions. The hydraulic conductivity of the root (Lp(r)) was evaluated from root pressure relaxations. When permeating solutes were added to the medium, biphasic root pressure relaxations were observed with water and solute phases and root pressure minima (maxima) which allowed the estimation of permeability (P(Sr)) and reflection coefficients (sigma(sr)) of roots. Reflection coefficients were: ethanol, 0.27; mannitol, 0.74; sucrose, 0.54; PEG 1000, 0.82; NaCl, 0.64; KNO(3), 0.67, and permeability coefficients (in 10(-8) meters per second): ethanol, 4.7; sucrose, 1.6; and NaCl, 5.7. Lp(r) was very different for osmotic and hydrostatic gradients. For hydrostatic gradients Lp(r) was 1.10(-7) meters per second per megapascal, whereas in osmotic experiments the hydraulic conductivity was found to be an order of magnitude lower. For hydrostatic gradients, the exosmotic Lp(r) was about 15% larger than the endosmotic, whereas in osmotic experiments the polarity in the water movement was reversed. These results either suggest effects of unstirred layers at the osmotic barrier in the root, an asymmetrical barrier, and/or mechanical effects. Measurements of the hydraulic conductivity of individual root cortex cells revealed an Lp similar to Lp(r) (hydrostatic). It is concluded that, in the presence of external hydrostatic gradients, water moves primarily in the apoplast, whereas in the presence of osmotic gradients this component is much smaller in relation to the cell-to-cell component (symplasmic plus transcellular transport).

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