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Cotransport of water and solutes in plant membranes: The molecular basis, and physiological functions

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute for Pulsed Power and Microwave Technology (IHM), Campus North, Building 630, Hermann v. Helmholtz Platz 1, 76344 Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany

Special Issues: BIOPHYSICS OF ION TRANSPORT IN PLANTS

Current concepts of plant membrane transport are based on the assumption that water and solutes move across membranes via separate pathways. According to this view, coupling between the fluxes is more or less exclusively constituted via the osmotic force that solutes exert on water transport. This view is questioned here, and experimental evidence for a cotransport of water and solutes is reviewed. The overview starts with ion channels that provide pathways for both ion and water transport, as exemplified for maxi K+ channels from cytoplasmic droplets of Chara corallina. Aquaporins are usually considered to be selective for water (just allowing for slippage of some other small, neutral molecules). Recently, however, a “dual function” aquaporin has been characterized from Arabidopsis thaliana (AtPIP2.1) that translocates water and at the same time conducts cations, preferentially Na+. By analogy with mammalian physiology, other candidates for solute-water flux coupling are cation-chloride cotransporters of the CCC type, and transporters of sugars and amino acids. The last part is dedicated to possible physiological functions that could rely on solute-water cotransport. Among these are the generation of root pressure, refilling of embolized xylem vessels, fast turgor-driven movements of leaves, cell elongation (growth), osmoregulation and adjustment of buoyancy in marine algae. This review will hopefully initiate further research in the field.
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Keywords Cation-chloride cotransporters (CCC); cell elongation; dual-function aquaporins; ion channels; pulvinus; reflection coefficient; root pressure

Citation: Lars H. Wegner. Cotransport of water and solutes in plant membranes: The molecular basis, and physiological functions. AIMS Biophysics, 2017, 4(2): 192-209. doi: 10.3934/biophy.2017.2.192

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