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Trends Plant Sci. 2007 Apr;12(4):137-42. Epub 2007 Mar 23.

Ion-mediated changes of xylem hydraulic resistance in planta: fact or fiction?

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  • 1Horticultural Production Chains group, Department of Plant Sciences, Wageningen University, Marijkeweg 22, 6709 PG, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Although xylem provides an efficient transport pathway for water in plants, the hydraulic conductivity of xylem (K(h)) can still influence plant water status. For decades, the K(h) of functional xylem has been assumed to be constant in the short term because xylem consists of a network of dead interconnected capillary elements (conduits). Recent research has shown that K(h) can change in response to the cation content of the xylem fluid. Volume changes of pectin gel in nanometer-sized pores at inter-conduit connections are hypothesized to be the cause, and implications for xylem transport in planta are suggested. However, it seems too early to be conclusive about this phenomenon because the phenomenon has not been measured in planta with xylem fluids that realistically mimic natural xylem sap and the applied methods used to measure ion-mediated changes in K(h) have drawbacks.

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