Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
REVIEW

Tissue tolerance: an essential but elusive trait for salt-tolerant crops

Rana Munns A B C G , Richard A. James B , Matthew Gilliham D , Timothy J. Flowers A E and Timothy D. Colmer A F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Plant Biology, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B CSIRO Agriculture, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

C ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

D ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, Waite Research Institute, University of Adelaide, Australia.

E School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QG, UK.

F Institute of Agriculture, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

G Corresponding author. Email: rana.munns@uwa.edu.au

Functional Plant Biology 43(12) 1103-1113 https://doi.org/10.1071/FP16187
Submitted: 21 May 2016  Accepted: 20 August 2016   Published: 12 October 2016

Abstract

For a plant to persist in saline soil, osmotic adjustment of all plant cells is essential. The more salt-tolerant species accumulate Na+ and Cl to concentrations in leaves and roots that are similar to the external solution, thus allowing energy-efficient osmotic adjustment. Adverse effects of Na+ and Cl on metabolism must be avoided, resulting in a situation known as ‘tissue tolerance’. The strategy of sequestering Na+ and Cl in vacuoles and keeping concentrations low in the cytoplasm is an important contributor to tissue tolerance. Although there are clear differences between species in the ability to accommodate these ions in their leaves, it remains unknown whether there is genetic variation in this ability within a species. This viewpoint considers the concept of tissue tolerance, and how to measure it. Four conclusions are drawn: (1) osmotic adjustment is inseparable from the trait of tissue tolerance; (2) energy-efficient osmotic adjustment should involve ions and only minimal organic solutes; (3) screening methods should focus on measuring tolerance, not injury; and (4) high-throughput protocols that avoid the need for control plants and multiple Na+ or Cl measurements should be developed. We present guidelines to identify useful genetic variation in tissue tolerance that can be harnessed for plant breeding of salt tolerance.

Additional keywords: barley, chickpea, chloride, osmoregulation, rice, sodium, wheat.


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