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Keywords:

  • Plasmolysis;
  • salinity;
  • salt stress;
  • water stress

Abstract

Plant responses to salt and water stress have much in common. Salinity reduces the ability of plants to take up water, and this quickly causes reductions in growth rate, along with a suite of metabolic changes identical to those caused by water stress. The initial reduction in shoot growth is probably due to hormonal signals generated by the roots. There may be salt-specific effects that later have an impact on growth; if excessive amounts of salt enter the plant, salt will eventually rise to toxic levels in the older transpiring leaves, causing premature senescence, and reduce the photosynthetic leaf area of the plant to a level that cannot sustain growth. These effects take time to develop. Salt-tolerant plants differ from salt-sensitive ones in having a low rate of Na+ and Cl transport to leaves, and the ability to compartmentalize these ions in vacuoles to prevent their build-up in cytoplasm or cell walls and thus avoid salt toxicity. In order to understand the processes that give rise to tolerance of salt, as distinct from tolerance of osmotic stress, and to identify genes that control the transport of salt across membranes, it is important to avoid treatments that induce cell plasmolysis, and to design experiments that distinguish between tolerance of salt and tolerance of water stress.