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New Phytol. 2014 Jul;203(2):388-400. doi: 10.1111/nph.12806. Epub 2014 Apr 7.

Exploring Picea glauca aquaporins in the context of needle water uptake and xylem refilling.

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Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, 442 Earth Sciences Building, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2E3, Canada.


Conifer needles have been reported to absorb water under certain conditions. Radial water movement across needle tissues is likely influenced by aquaporin (AQP) water channels. Foliar water uptake and AQP localization in Picea glauca needles were studied using physiological and microscopic methods. AQP expression was measured using quantitative real-time PCR. Members of the AQP gene family in spruce were identified using homology search tools. Needles of drought-stressed plants absorbed water when exposed to high relative humidity (RH). AQPs were present in the endodermis-like bundle sheath, in phloem cells and in the transfusion parenchyma of needles. Up-regulation of AQPs in high RH coincided with embolism repair in stem xylem. The present study also provides the most comprehensive functional and phylogenetic analysis of spruce AQPs to date. Thirty putative complete AQP sequences were found. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that AQPs facilitate radial water movement from the needle epidermis towards the vascular tissue. Foliar water uptake may occur in late winter when needles are covered by melting snow and may provide a water source for embolism repair before the beginning of the growing season.


Picea glauca; aquaporins; endodermis; foliar water uptake; plasma membrane intrinsic proteins (PIPs); radial water flow; xylem refilling

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