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

Early effects of water deficit on two parental clones of Populus nigra grown under different environmental conditions

Claudia Cocozza A B D , Paolo Cherubini B , Nicole Regier B , Matthias Saurer C , Beat Frey B and Roberto Tognetti A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A EcoGeoFor Lab, Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie per l’Ambiente e il Territorio (STAT), Università degli Studi del Molise, Contrada Fonte Lappone, I-86090 Pesche, Italy.

B WSL Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland.

C PSI Paul Scherrer Institute, CH-5232 Villigen, Switzerland.

D Corresponding author. Email: claudia.cocozza@unimol.it

Functional Plant Biology 37(3) 244-254 https://doi.org/10.1071/FP09156
Submitted: 18 June 2009  Accepted: 22 December 2009   Published: 25 February 2010

Abstract

Global climate change is expected to induce a dramatic increase in the frequency and intensity of drought events in the Mediterranean region. Their effects might be particularly severe in short rotation forestry systems, such as poplar plantations, with high water demands. The aim of this study was to examine the clone-specific reaction of plant-water relations and growth to a dry-down cycle in two parental clones of Populus nigra L.: Poli, which is adapted to the dry/hot climatic conditions of southern Italy, and 58–861, which prefers the cooler and moister conditions typical in northern Italy. Plants were grown in controlled conditions in an airconditioned greenhouse, under three different irrigation regimes for 44 days. Drought stress resulted in a general decrease in plant size and predawn water potential in both clones. Although the control trees grew somewhat taller and retained leaves longer than those in other treatments, the two clones responded differently to water stress. Under severe stress conditions, Poli showed proline accumulation in old leaves to preserve plants from drought damage, without reduced stomatal activity, as shown by low values of δ13C. In 58–861, the accumulation of ABA in roots during drought probably stimulated stomatal control, increasing drought avoidance in this drought-sensitive clone. Although in 58–861 the expression of aquaporin genes PIP1–2 and TIP1–3 was enhanced, in Poli gene expression was downregulated. We analysed only part of the aquaporins genes, but we assume that these clones exhibited contrasting water transport strategies during drought. Clone 58–861 seems to increase the permeability of the vascular tissue by overexpressing aquaporin genes, probably in order to facilitate water transport, and Poli appears to increase water conservation in the root cells by downregulating aquaporins.

Additional keywords: ABA, aquaporins, carbon isotope composition, proline, water stress.


Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Maurizio Sabatti (Università della Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy) for providing the P. nigra cuttings and to Silvia Dingwall for comments on the English language. The work was partially funded by the Swiss Secretariat for Education and Research, COST Action E38 (woody root processes, Grant No. C04.0256). The authors thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the previous version of the manuscript.


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