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

Turgor, solute import and growth in maize roots treated with galactose

Jeremy Pritchard A , A. Deri Tomos B , John F. Farrar B , Peter E. H. Minchin C D , Nick Gould C , Matthew J. Paul E , Elspeth A. MacRae F , Richard A. Ferrieri G , Dennis W. Gray H and Michael R. Thorpe C I

A School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK.

B Ysgol Gwyddorau Bioleg, Prifysgol Cymru Bangor, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2UW, Wales, UK.

C Horticulture and Food Research Institute, Ruakura, Hamilton, New Zealand.

D Current address: ICG-III Phytosphäre, Forschungszentrum Jülich, D 52425, Jülich, Germany.

E Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2JQ, UK.

F Horticulture and Food Research Institute, Private Bag 92 169, Auckland, New Zealand.

G Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY 11973, USA.

H University of Connecticut, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Storrs, CT 06269, USA.

I Current address: Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY 11973, USA. Corresponding author. Email:

Functional Plant Biology 31(11) 1095-1103
Submitted: 28 April 2004  Accepted: 21 September 2004   Published: 18 November 2004


It has been observed that extension growth in maize roots is almost stopped by exposure to 5 mm d-galactose in the root medium, while the import of recent photoassimilate into the entire root system is temporarily promoted by the same treatment. The aim of this study was to reconcile these two apparently incompatible observations. We examined events near the root tip before and after galactose treatment since the tip region is the site of elongation and of high carbon deposition in the root. The treatment rapidly decreased root extension along the whole growing zone. In contrast, turgor pressure, measured directly with the pressure probe in the cortical cells of the growing zone, rapidly increased by 0.15 MPa within the first hour following treatment, and the increase was maintained over the following 24 h. Both tensiometric measurements and a comparison of turgor pressure with local growth rate demonstrated that a rapid tightening of the cell wall caused the reduction in growth. Single cell sampling showed cell osmotic pressure increased by 0.3 MPa owing to accumulation of both organic and inorganic solutes. The corresponding change in cell water potential was a rise from –0.18 MPa to approximately zero. More mature cells at 14 mm from the root tip (just outside the growing region) showed a qualitatively similar response.

Galactose treatment rapidly increased the import of recently fixed carbon (RFC) into the whole root as deduced by 11C labelling of photoassimilate. In contrast, there was a significant decrease in import of recently fixed carbon into the apical 5mm concomitant with the increase in turgor in this region. No decrease in import of recently fixed carbon was observed 5–15 mm from the root tip despite the increase in cortical cell turgor. These data are consistent with direct symplastic connections between the growing cells and the phloem supplying the solutes in the apical, but not the basal, regions of the growing zone. Hence, the inhibition of growth and the elevation of solute import induced by galactose are spatially separated within the root.

Keywords: cell solutes, cell wall, cell water relations, osmotic pressure, phloem transport, pressure probe, root growth, tissue mapping, turgor pressure, 11C.


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