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Plant Physiol. 2000 Apr;122(4):1387-97.

Enhancement of Na(+) uptake currents, time-dependent inward-rectifying K(+) channel currents, and K(+) channel transcripts by K(+) starvation in wheat root cells.

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Department of Biology and Center for Molecular Genetics, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0116, USA.


Excessive low-affinity Na(+) uptake is toxic to the growth of glycophytic plants. Recently, several reports have suggested that the interaction between K(+) and Na(+) uptake might represent a key factor in determining the Na(+) tolerance of plants. We investigated the effects of K(+) starvation on Na(+) and K(+) uptake mechanisms in the plasma membrane of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) root cortex cells using the patch-clamp technique. Unexpectedly, K(+) starvation of wheat seedlings was found to enhance the magnitude and frequency of occurrence of time-dependent inward-rectifying K(+) channel currents (I(K)(+)(in)). We examined whether the transcription of a wheat root K(+)(in) channel gene is induced by K(+) starvation. A cDNA coding for a wheat root K(+) channel homolog, TaAKT1 (accession no. AF207745), was isolated. TaAKT1 mRNA levels were up-regulated in roots in response to withdrawal of K(+) from the growth medium. Furthermore, K(+) starvation caused an enhancement of instantaneous Na(+) currents (I(Na)(+)). Electrophysiological analyses suggested that I(K)(+)(in) and I(Na)(+) are not mediated by the same transport protein based on: (a) different activation curves, (b) different time dependencies, (c) different sensitivities to external Ca(2+), and (d) different cation selectivities. These data implicate a role for I(Na)(+) in Na(+) uptake and stress during K(+) starvation, and indicate that K(+)(in) channels may contribute to K(+)-starvation-induced K(+) uptake in wheat roots.

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