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Planta. 2007 Jun;226(1):203-14. Epub 2007 Jan 17.

Systemic signalling in barley through action potentials.

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Botanisches Institut I, Justus-Liebig-Universit├Ąt, Senckenbergstrasse 17, 35390, Giessen, Germany.


Using apoplastic voltage- and ion selective microprobes, in barley leaves action potentials (APs) have been measured, which propagate acropetally as well as basipetally from leaf to leaf or from root to leaf following the application of mild salt stress (e.g. 30-50 mM KCl or NH(4)Cl) or amino acids (e.g. 1 mM glutamic acid or 5 mM GABA). Voltage changes were biphasic, followed an 'all-or-none' characteristic, and propagated at 20-30 cm min(-1) irrespective of the direction. With the salt-induced APs, a strong initial depolarization is the main AP-releasing factor that first causes Ca(2+) influx and then anion efflux. Ca(2+) influx coincides with an initial slower depolarization, the rapid anion efflux causes the typical voltage 'break-through'. Subsequently, K(+)-efflux starts after the depolarizing voltage has passed the K(+) equilibrium potential (inversion of the K(+) driving force). Glutamic acid and GABA induce APs not through membrane depolarization, but presumably by binding to a putative receptor or to ligand-gated Ca(2+)-conducting channels, respectively, followed by Ca(2+) induced activation of anion efflux. APs are accompanied by transient apoplastic pH increase (about 1 unit), and by cytoplasmic pH decrease (about 0.5 units). The apoplastic pH change is interpreted as an indicator of stress, the cytoplasmic pH change as a prerequisite for defence related gene activation. Since APs are released by agents added in a moderate concentration range, it is suggested that they may serve as first and fast systemic signals following attack from pathogens.

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