• Zea mays;
  • root cortex;
  • salinity resistance;
  • X-ray microanalysis;
  • subcellular compartments


Significant varietal differences were apparent in the survival of seedlings of maize in saline conditions but only at relatively high external concentrations (200 mol m−3 NaCl), where there was a range from 0 to 66% survival, 25 d after salinization. For the varieties examined there was a strong negative correlation between Na concentrations in the third leaf and survival. Two resistant varieties (Across 8024 and Protador) and one salt-sensitive variety (LG11) were identified. The characteristics of ion accumulation were clearly different in salt-tolerant and salt-sensitive types, the difference becoming more pronounced with plant age.

The distribution of ions, particular those of Na, K and Cl, was determined within subcellular compartments of roots cells using X-ray microanalysis of freeze-substituted tissue. Salinity induced a greater increase (about 1.7 times) in cytoplasmic Na concentration in the salt-sensitive variety (LG11) than in resistant varieties (Across 8024 or Protador). The mean K:Na ratio in the cytoplasm of the root cortical cells in the salt-resistant varieties grown for 15 d in saline conditions (100 mol m−3 NaCl) was twice that found for LG11.

Sodium and Cl concentrations in the vacuoles decreased radially inwards from the epidermal cells in salt-treated roots of LG11.