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Plant Mol Biol. 2008 Dec;68(6):521-32. doi: 10.1007/s11103-008-9388-3. Epub 2008 Aug 27.

A putative role for the plasma membrane potential in the control of the expression of the gene encoding the tomato high-affinity potassium transporter HAK5.

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Departamento de Nutrición Vegetal, Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada del Segura-CSIC, Campus de Espinardo, Apartado de Correos 164, 30100, Murcia, Spain.


A chimeric CaHAK1-LeHAK5 transporter with only 15 amino acids of CaHAK1 in the N-terminus mediates high-affinity K(+) uptake in yeast cells. Kinetic and expression analyses strongly suggest that LeHAK5 mediates a significant proportion of the high-affinity K(+) uptake shown by K(+)-starved tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants. The development of high-affinity K(+) uptake, putatively mediated by LeHAK5, was correlated with increased LeHAK5 mRNA levels and a more negative electrical potential difference across the plasma membrane of root epidermal and cortical cells. However, this increase in high-affinity K(+) uptake was not correlated with the root K(+) content. Thus, (i) growth conditions that result in a hyperpolarized root plasma membrane potential, such as K(+) starvation or growth in the presence of NH(4) (+), but which do not decrease the K(+) content, lead to increased LeHAK5 expression; (ii) the presence of NaCl in the growth solution, which prevents the hyperpolarization induced by K(+) starvation, also prevents LeHAK5 expression. Moreover, once the gene is induced, depolarization of the plasma membrane potential then produces a decrease in the LeHAK5 mRNA. On the basis of these results, we propose that the plant membrane electrical potential plays a role in the regulation of the expression of this gene encoding a high-affinity K(+) transporter.

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