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August 2015, DOI: 10.1016/j.envexpbot.2015.03.006

Diurnal depression in leaf hydraulic conductance at ambient and elevated [CO2] reveals anisohydric water management in field-grown soybean and possible involvement of aquaporins

Environmental and Experimental Botany

Anna M. Locke and Donald R. Ort


Diurnal cycles of photosynthesis and water use in field-grown soybean (Glycine max) are tied to light intensity and vapor pressure deficit (VPD). At high mid-day VPD, transpiration rates can lead to a decline in leaf water potential (Ψleaf) if leaf hydraulic conductance (Kleaf) is insufficient to supply water to intercellular airspaces in pace with demand. Kleaf is determined by leaf xylem conductivity to water, as well as extra-xylem pathways that are likely mediated by aquaporin water transport proteins. When transpiration demand exceeds the maximum capacity of Kleaf to supply water, high tension in the water column can cause cavitation in xylem, and these emboli-blocked xylem vessels reduce water transport and thus lower Kleaf. Stomatal conductance typically remains high at mid-day for soybean, suggesting either a mid-day increase in Kleaf or that photosynthesis may be maintained at the cost of leaf water status, indicative of an anisohydric water management strategy in soybean. This study examined diurnal fluctuations in Kleaf and Ψleaf, showing a mid-day depression in Kleaf in a pattern closely reflecting that of Ψleaf, indicating that Kleaf depression is the result of cavitation in leaf xylem. The diurnal depression of Kleaf was not prevented by growth at elevated [CO2], which lowered stomatal conductance. Diurnal transcription patterns of aquaporin genes showed that a total of 34 genes belonging to 4 aquaporin families were expressed in soybean leaves, of which 22 were differentially expressed between at least two time points. These data suggest that mid-day Kleaf depression was driven primarily by cavitation at increasing xylem water tensions, but that aquaporins are also likely involved in diurnal regulation of soybean leaf water status. It is further concluded that because soybean photosynthesis is typically sustained at mid-day, Kleaf even at the depressed level was in excess of that needed to sustain a stomatal conductance sufficient to prevent depression of photosynthesis in soybean.

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The Ort Lab is supported by many public and private partnerships, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the UK Government's Department for International Development, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

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