Roles of Aquaporins in Root Responses to Irrigation

Vandeleur, Rebecca; Niemietz, Christa; Tilbrook, Joanne; Tyerman, Stephen D.
July 2005
Plant & Soil;Jul2005, Vol. 274 Issue 1/2, p141
Academic Journal
Due to current environmental issues concerning the use of water for irrigation, the improvement of crop water-use efficiency and a reduction in water consumption has become a priority. New irrigation methods that reduce water use, while still maintaining production have been developed. To optimise these techniques knowledge of above- and below-ground plant physiological responses is necessary. During growth, plant roots are exposed to cycles of wetting and drying in normal rain-fed and irrigation situations. This review concentrates on the below-ground aspects, in particular the water permeability of roots. Significant research has been conducted on the root anatomy and hydraulic conductivity of desert plants subjected to wetting and drying. Major intrinsic proteins (MIPs), most of which show aquaporin (water-channel) activity are likely to be involved in balancing the water relations of the plants during water deficit. However, many MIPs seem to allow permeation of other small neutral solutes and some may allow permeation of ions under certain conditions. The ability of the plant to rapidly respond to rewetting may be important in maintaining productivity. It has been suggested that aquaporins may be involved in this rapid response. The down-regulation of the aquaporins during dry conditions can also limit water loss to the soil, and intrinsic sensitivity of aquaporins to water potential is shown here to be very strong in some cases (NOD26). However, the response of aquaporins in various plant species to water deficits has been quite varied. Another component of aquaporin regulation in response to various stresses (hypoxia/anoxia, salinity and chilling) may be related to redistribution of flow to more favourable regions of the soil. Some irrigation techniques may be triggering these responses. Diurnal fluctuations of root hydraulic conductance that is related to aquaporin expression seem to match the expected transpirational demands of the shoot, and it remains to be seen if shoot-to-root signalling may be important in regulation of root aquaporins. If so, canopy management typical of horticultural crops may impact on root hydraulic conductance. An understanding of the regulation of aquaporins may assist in the development of improved resistance to water stress and greater efficiency of water use by taking into account where and when roots best absorb water.


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