Plasma membrane anion channels in higher plants and their putative functions in roots


Author for correspondence:Stephen K. Roberts Tel: +1524 593145 Fax: +1524 843854 Email:



  •  Summary 647

  • I. Introduction 648
  • II. Overview of higher plant plasma membrane  anion channels 648
  • III. Anion channels in higher plant roots 655
  • IV. Conclusions and prospects 661
  •  Acknowledgements 662

  •  References 662


Recent years have seen considerable progress in identifying anion channel activities in higher plant cells. This review outlines the functional properties of plasma membrane anion channels in plant cells and discusses their likely roles in root function. Plant anion channels can be grouped according to their voltage dependence and kinetics: (1) depolarization-activated anion channels which mediate either anion efflux (R and S types) or anion influx (outwardly rectifying type); (2) hyperpolarization-activated anion channels which mediate anion efflux, and (3) anion channels activated by light or membrane stretch. These types of anion channel are apparent in root cells where they may function in anion homeostasis, membrane stabilization, osmoregulation, boron tolerance and regulation of passive salt loading into the xylem vessels. In addition, roots possess anion channels exhibiting unique properties which are consistent with them having specialized functions in root physiology. Most notable are the organic anion selective channels, which are regulated by extracellular Al3+ or the phosphate status of the plant. Finally, although the molecular identities of plant anion channels remain elusive, the diverse electrophysiological properties of plant anion channels suggest that large and diverse multigene families probably encode these channels.