T3238fer (Fe-inefficient) and T3238FER (Fe-efficient) tomato plants differ in their ability to utilize Fe and therefore can be used as test genotypes to locate sites of Fe uptake or to characterize changes that occur in roots in response to Fe stress (Fe deficiency). T3238fer does not respond to Fe stress. Release of hydrogen ions and reduction of Fe3+ to Fe2+ are two primary responses of T3238FER roots to Fe stress. Fe reduction sites were predominately in the young lateral roots, and between the regions of root elongation and maturation of the primary root. The use of BDPS (bathophenanthrolinedisulfonate) to trap Fe2+ did not affect the release of H+ ions or reduction by T3238FER roots. BPDS did not decrease Fe uptake until it exceeded the Fe concentration in the nutrient solution. A sevenfold increase in BPDS caused a threefold decrease in Fe taken up by the plant. Fe3+ is reduced to Fe2+ at root sites accessible to BPDS. Adding Zn decreased the response to Fe stress.
Iron stress initiates the development of lateral roots, and we propose that most Fe enters the plant through these roots. The iron moves through protoxylem into the metaxylem of the primary root and then to the top of the plant as Fe citrate. Root environmental factors that are competitive or inhibit Fe-stress response, or genotypes that fail to respond to Fe stress, contribute to the development of Fe deficiency in plants.