The composite water and solute transport of barley (Hordeum vulgare) roots: effect of suberized barriers

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Background and Aims

Roots have complex anatomical structures, and certain localized cell layers develop suberized apoplastic barriers. The size and tightness of these barriers depend on the growth conditions and on the age of the root. Such complex anatomical structures result in a composite water and solute transport in roots.


Development of apoplastic barriers along barley seminal roots was detected using various staining methods, and the suberin amounts in the apical and basal zones were analysed using gas chromatography-mass spectometry (GC-MS). The hydraulic conductivity of roots (Lpr) and of cortical cells (Lpc) was measured using root and cell pressure probes.

Key Results

When grown in hydroponics, barley roots did not form an exodermis, even at their basal zones. However, they developed an endodermis. Endodermal Casparian bands first appeared as ‘dots’ as early as at 20 mm from the apex, whereas a patchy suberin lamellae appeared at 60 mm. The endodermal suberin accounted for the total suberin of the roots. The absolute amount in the basal zone was significantly higher than in the apical zone, which was inversely proportional to the Lpr. Comparison of Lpr and Lpc suggested that cell to cell pathways dominate for water transport in roots. However, the calculation of Lpr from Lpc showed that at least 26 % of water transport occurs through the apoplast. Roots had different solute permeabilities (Psr) and reflection coefficients (σsr) for the solutes used. The σsr was below unity for the solutes, which have virtually zero permeability for semi-permeable membranes.


Suberized endodermis significantly reduces Lpr of seminal roots. The water and solute transport across barley roots is composite in nature and they do not behave like ideal osmometers. The composite transport model should be extended by adding components arranged in series (cortex, endodermis) in addition to the currently included components arranged in parallel (apoplastic, cell to cell pathways).

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