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J Plant Physiol. 2013 Jan 1;170(1):18-24. doi: 10.1016/j.jplph.2012.08.008. Epub 2012 Aug 31.

Separation of abscission zone cells in detached Azolla roots depends on apoplastic pH.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, Osaka Prefecture University, Gakuen-cho 1-2, Minami-ku, Sakai, Osaka 599-8570, Japan.


In studies on the mechanism of cell separation during abscission, little attention has been paid to the apoplastic environment. We found that the apoplastic pH surrounding abscission zone cells in detached roots of the water fern Azolla plays a major role in cell separation. Abscission zone cells of detached Azolla roots were separated rapidly in a buffer at neutral pH and slowly in a buffer at pH below 4.0. However, cell separation rarely occurred at pH 5.0-5.5. Light and electron microscopy revealed that cell separation was caused by a degradation of the middle lamella between abscission zone cells at both pH values, neutral and below 4.0. Low temperature and papain treatment inhibited cell separation. Enzyme(s) in the cell wall of the abscission zone cells might be involved in the degradation of the pectin of the middle lamella and the resultant, pH-dependent cell separation. By contrast, in Phaseolus leaf petioles, unlike Azolla roots, cell separation was slow and increased only at acidic pH. The rapid cell separation, as observed in Azolla roots at neutral pH, did not occur. Indirect immunofluorescence microscopy, using anti-pectin monoclonal antibodies, revealed that the cell wall pectins of the abscission zone cells of Azolla roots and Phaseolus leaf petioles looked similar and changed similarly during cell separation. Thus, the pH-related differences in cell separation mechanisms of Azolla and Phaseolus might not be due to differences in cell wall pectin, but to differences in cell wall-located enzymatic activities responsible for the degradation of pectic substances. A possible enzyme system is discussed.

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