The aim of this study was to investigate whether the cytoskeleton, and in particular the microtubular system, is affected by enhanced levels of ultraviolet-B (280–320 nm, 9 kJ m−2 day−1 biologically effective UV-B radiation) radiation in epidermal cells of Petunia x hybrida Vilm, isolated from leaves of plants grown under UV-B radiation and visible light. In addition, morphological changes during development were monitored. In a previous study microtubules were depolymerized and delays in the different stages of the cell cycle were found when protoplasts of Petunia were irradiated with UV-B radiation (Staxén et al. 1993. Protoplasma 173: 70–76). Thus it was of interest to ascertain whether the cytoskeleton would be similarly affected in an intact system. Assuming an effect of UV-B radiation on the microtubular system, we wished to determine whether this could be correlated to concomitant changes in leaf morphology. Plants of Petunia hybrida were grown in greenhouse conditions in the presence or absence of UV-B radiation. During the course of the experiment, samples were taken from young, expanding leaves and from older, fully expanded leaves and prepared for localization and analysis of microtubules from the adaxial epidermal cells. Morphology rather than the cytoskeleton was affected by UV radiation, despite the fact that the epidermal cytoskeleton would most likely be affected, since it is located in the cells which form the first intercepting layer for incident radiation.
Morphological changes under UV-B radiation, as compared to those under control conditions, were reflected in earlier flowering and an increase in leaf number. Cell division was thus stimulated as was also evidenced from the increased leaf area. Our results indicate that the number of stomata differentiated on a leaf area basis was not altered although the number of stomata per epidermal cell was reduced.