Graminaceous plant species respond to iron (Fe)-deficiency stress by enhancing the release of phytosiderophores from the roots and the uptake of Fe-phytosiderophores. For studying the mobilization and uptake of apoplasmic root Fe by barley (inherently high phytosiderophore release) and sorghum (inherently low phytosiderophore release) in axenic and nonaxenic (inoculated) nutrient solution, Fe pools in the root apoplasm were loaded during plant preculture with 10-4 M Fe(III)-EDTA. After 27 d growth in Fe-deficient nutrient solution, inoculated barley plants developed moderate Fe-deficiency chlorosis compared with the less chlorotic axenic plants. In inoculated plants, recovery of phytosiderophores and mobilization of apoplasmic root Fe tended to be slightly lower than in axenic plants, and in both treatments apoplasmic root Fe was completely depleted at harvest. As determined by the nonsoluble Fe fraction (> 0·2 μm) in the nutrient solution and at the rhizoplane, the microbial uptake and immobilization of apoplasmic root Fe was estimated at about 3% of the total amount of apoplasmic root Fe after preculture and at less than 10% of plant Fe uptake.
Under axenic conditions, Fe-deficient sorghum also depleted apoplasmic root Fe and developed moderate Fe-deficiency chlorosis, although phytosiderophore recovery was 5-10-fold lower than in barley. By contrast, in inoculated sorghum plants, phytosiderophore recovery and Fe mobilization were extremely low. At harvest, in inoculated sorghum plants apoplasmic Fe pools were still considerably loaded and plant Fe uptake was c. 60% lower than that of axenic plants, resulting in severe Fe-deficiency chlorosis. Thus, in Fe-deficient sorghum plants, the lower rate of phytosiderophore release and its degradation restricted an efficient mobilization of apoplasmic root Fe in the presence of micro-organisms. In barley, however, the higher rate of phytosiderophore release allowed a complete mobilization of apoplasmic root Fe even in inoculated nutrient solution. Furthermore, the results show that the dominating effect of micro-organisms in their competition with barley and sorghum for apoplasmic root Fe is the degradation of phytosiderophores rather than the immobilization or uptake of Fe.