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Planta. 2008 May;227(6):1311-9. doi: 10.1007/s00425-008-0703-7. Epub 2008 Feb 14.

Cell-to-cell pathway dominates xylem-epidermis hydraulic connection in Tradescantia fluminensis (Vell. Conc.) leaves.

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Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


A steady supply of water is indispensable for leaves to fulfil their photosynthetic function. Understanding water movement in leaves, especially factors that regulate the movement of water flux from xylem to epidermis, requires that the nature of the transport pathway be elucidated. To determine the hydraulic linkage between xylem and epidermis, epidermal cell turgor pressure (P (t)) in leaves of Tradescantia fluminensis was monitored using a cell pressure probe in response to a 0.2 MPa step change in xylem pressure applied at the leaf petiole. Halftime of P (t) changes (T(x)(1/2)) were 10-30 times greater than that of water exchange across an individual cell membrane (T(m)(1/2)) suggesting that cell-to-cell water transport constitutes a significant part of the leaf hydraulic path from xylem to epidermis. Furthermore, perfusion of H(2)O(2) resulted in increases of both T(m)(1/2) and T(x)(1/2) by a factor of 2.5, indicating that aquaporins may play a role in the xylem to epidermis hydraulic link. The halftime for water exchange (T(m)(1/2)) did not differ significantly between cells located at the leaf base (2.5 s), middle (2.6 s) and tip (2.5 s), indicating that epidermal cell hydraulic properties are similar along the length of the leaf. Following the pressure application to the xylem (0.2 MPa), P (t) changed by 0.12, 0.06 and 0.04 MPa for epidermal cells at the base, middle and the tip of the leaf, respectively. This suggests that pressure dissipation between xylem and epidermis is significant, and that the pressure drop along the vein may be due to its structural similarities to a porous pipe, an idea which was further supported by measurements of xylem hydraulic resistance using a perfusion technique.

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