Onion Root Anatomy and the Uptake of Sulphate and Phosphate Ions
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Ions in the soil solution traverse many layers (epidermis, exodermis, central cortex, and endodermis) within the root to reach the stele. The endodermis is present in almost all vascular plants while the exodermis is found only in majority of angiosperm roots tested. The maturation of the exodermis and the death of epidermis alter the plasma membrane surface areas (PMSA) potentially available for ion uptake. Do these changes reduce the ion uptake in proportion to the loss of absorptive surface areas? To answer this question onion (Allium cepa L cv. Wolf) adventitious root segments representing above features: Immature Exodermis Live Epidermis (IEXLEP), Mature Exodermis Live Epidermis (MEXLEP), Mature Exodermis Dead Epidermis (MEXDEP) were excised. Using a compartmental elution technique, radioactive sulphate and phosphate present in various internal compartments were quantified. Quantities of ions moved across the plasma membrane, a summation of quantities in the cytoplasm, ‘vacuole’, and ‘bound’ compartments, indicated that the maturation of the exodermis reduces the uptake of sulphate but not phosphate. In contrast, epidermal death reduced the movement of both ions across the plasma membranes. Although there is a reduction in the available PMSA with the maturation of the exodermis and death of the epidermis, these events do not necessarily reduce the ion movement into the plasma symplast. The endodermal cells of onion roots deposit suberin lamellae as secondary walls. As seen in cross-sections some cells remain without these lamellae and are known as ‘passage cells’. What is the pattern of suberin lamella deposition along the root? Is the suberin lamella a continuous layer? To answer these questions, endodermal layers isolated from onion adventitious roots were used in the present study. These layers were observed using four stains (Sudan Red 7B, Fluorol yellow 088 [Fy], berberine, and Nile red) and three microscopes (compound-white light, compound-epifluorescence and confocal scanning). In differentiating cells with and without suberin lamellae in endodermal layers Sudan Red 7B served the best results for compound-white light microscope, Fy for compound-epifluorescence microscope and Nile for confocal laser scanning microscope (CLSM). Suberin lamellae deposition initiated almost in a random manner; they continued to be deposited resulting in the production of longitudinal files alternating with files with passage cells, and were ultimately deposited in almost all cells at a distance of 255 mm from the tip. The suberin lamellae are perforated with pores, a consistent feature even as far as 285 mm from the tip. These pores may serve as portals for water, ions, and pathogen movement.