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J Plant Physiol. 2009 Feb 15;166(3):290-300. doi: 10.1016/j.jplph.2008.06.004. Epub 2008 Aug 28.

Electric signalling in fruit trees in response to water applications and light-darkness conditions.

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Facultad de Agronomía e Ingeniería Forestal, Departamento de Fruticultura y Enología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Av. Vicuña Mackenna 4860, Casilla, Santiago, Chile.


A fundamental property of all living organisms is the generation and conduction of electrochemical impulses throughout their different tissues and organs, resulting from abiotic and biotic changes in environmental conditions. In plants and animals, signal transmission can occur over long and short distances, and it can correspond to intra- and inter-cellular communication mechanisms that determine the physiological behaviour of the organism. Rapid plant and animal responses to environmental changes are associated with electrical excitability and signalling. The same molecules and pathways are used to drive physiological responses, which are characterized by movement (physical displacement) in animals and by continuous growth in plants. In the field of environmental plant electrophysiology, automatic and continuous measurements of electrical potential differences (DeltaEP) between plant tissues can be effectively used to study information transport mechanisms and physiological responses that result from external stimuli on plants. A critical mass of data on electrical behaviour in higher plants has accumulated in the last 5 years, establishing plant neurobiology as the most recent discipline of plant science. In this work, electrical potential differences were monitored continuously using Ag/AgCl microelectrodes, which were inserted 15mm deep into sapwood at various positions in the trunks of several fruit-bearing trees. Electrodes were referenced to an unpolarisable Ag/AgCl microelectrode, which was installed 5cm deep in the soil. Systematic patterns of DeltaEP during day-night cycles and at different conditions of soil water availability are discussed as alternative tools to assess early plant stress conditions. This research relates to the adaptive response of trees to soil water availability and light-darkness cycles.

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