Cell-type-specific calcium responses to drought, salt and cold in the Arabidopsis root


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Little is known about the signalling processes involved in the response of roots to abiotic stresses. The Arabidopsis root is a model system of root anatomy with a simple architecture and is amenable to genetic manipulation. Although it is known that the root responds to cold, drought and salt stress with increases in cytoplasmic free calcium, there is currently no information about the role(s) of the functionally diverse cell types that comprise the root. Transgenic Arabidopsis with enhancer-trapped GAL4 expression in specific cell types was used to target the calcium reporting protein, aequorin, fused to a modified yellow fluorescent protein (YFP). The luminescence output of targeted aequorin enabled in vivo measurement of changes in cytosolic free calcium concentrations ([Ca2+]cyt) in specific cell types during acute cold, osmotic and salt stresses. In response to an acute cold stress, all cell types tested as well as plants constitutively expressing aequorin displayed rapid [Ca2+]cyt peaks. However, there were significant quantitative differences between different cell types in terms of their response to cold stress, osmotic stress (440 mM mannitol) and salt stress (220 mM NaCl), implying specific roles for certain cell types in the detection and/or response to these stimuli. In response to osmotic and salt stress, the endodermis and pericycle displayed prolonged oscillations in cytosolic calcium that were distinct from the responses of the other cell types tested. Targeted expression of aequorin circumvented the technical difficulties involved in fluorescent dye injection as well as the lack of cell specificity of constitutively expressed aequorin, and revealed a new level of complexity in root calcium signalling.