Xylem ionic relations and salinity tolerance in barley

Sergey Shabala, Svetlana Shabala, Tracey A. Cuin, Jiayin Pang, William Percey, Zhonghua Chen, Simon Conn, Christian Eing, Lars H. Wegner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

171 Citations (Scopus)


Control of ion loading into the xylem has been repeatedly named as a crucial factor determining plant salt tolerance. In this study we further investigate this issue by applying a range of biophysical [the microelectrode ion flux measurement (MIFE) technique for non-invasive ion flux measurements, the patch clamp technique, membrane potential measurements] and physiological (xylem sap and tissue nutrient analysis, photosynthetic characteristics, stomatal conductance) techniques to barley varieties contrasting in their salt tolerance. We report that restricting Na+ loading into the xylem is not essential for conferring salinity tolerance in barley, with tolerant varieties showing xylem Na+ concentrations at least as high as those of sensitive ones. At the same time, tolerant genotypes are capable of maintaining higher xylem K+/Na+ ratios and efficiently sequester the accumulated Na+ in leaves. The former is achieved by more efficient loading of K+ into the xylem. We argue that the observed increases in xylem K+ and Na+ concentrations in tolerant genotypes are required for efficient osmotic adjustment, needed to support leaf expansion growth. We also provide evidence that K +-permeable voltage-sensitive channels are involved in xylem loading and operate in a feedback manner to maintain a constant K/Na+ ratio in the xylem sap.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-853
Number of pages15
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Ion channels
  • Membrane depolarization
  • Potassium
  • Salt stress
  • Sodium
  • Xylem sap


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