Residual transpiration as a component of salinity stress tolerance mechanism: a case study for barley
Background: While most water loss from leaf surfaces occurs via stomata, part of this loss also occurs through the leaf cuticle, even when the stomata are fully closed. This component, termed residual transpiration, dominates during the night and also becomes critical under stress conditions such as drought or salinity. Reducing residual transpiration might therefore be a potentially useful mechanism for improving plant performance when water availability is reduced (e.g. under saline or drought stress conditions). One way of reducing residual transpiration may be via increased accumulation of waxes on the surface of leaf. Residual transpiration and wax constituents may vary with leaf age and position as well as between genotypes. This study used barley genotypes contrasting in salinity stress tolerance to evaluate the contribution of residual transpiration to the overall salt tolerance, and also investigated what role cuticular waxes play in this process. Leaves of three different positions (old, intermediate and young) were used.
Results: Our results show that residual transpiration was higher in old leaves than the young flag leaves, correlated negatively with the osmolality, and was positively associated with the osmotic and leaf water potentials. Salt tolerant varieties transpired more water than the sensitive variety under normal growth conditions. Cuticular waxes on barley leaves were dominated by primary alcohols (84.7–86.9%) and also included aldehydes (8.90–10.1%), n-alkanes (1.31–1. 77%), benzoate esters (0.44–0.52%), phytol related compounds (0.22–0.53%), fatty acid methyl esters (0.14–0.33%), β-diketones (0.07–0.23%) and alkylresorcinols (1.65–3.58%). A significant negative correlation was found between residual transpiration and total wax content, and residual transpiration correlated significantly with the amount of primary alcohols.
Conclusions: Both leaf osmolality and the amount of total cuticular wax are involved in controlling cuticular water loss from barley leaves under well irrigated conditions. A significant and negative relationship between the amount of primary alcohols and a residual transpiration implies that some cuticular wax constituents act as a water barrier on plant leaf surface and thus contribute to salinity stress tolerance. It is suggested that residual transpiration could be a fundamental mechanism by which plants optimize water use efficiency under stress conditions.