Faculty Publications


Patterns of effective permeability of leaf cuticles to acids

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Plant Physiology





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Plants in the field are frequently exposed to anthropogenic acid precipitation with pH values of 4 and below. For the acid to directly affect leaf tissues, it must pass through the leaf cuticle, but little is known about the permeability of cuticles to protons, or about the effect of different anions on this permeability. We investigated the movement of protons through isolated astomatous leaf cuticles of grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi Macfady.), rough lemon (Citrus limon [L.] Burm. fils cv Ponderosa), and pear (Pyrus communis L.) using hydrochloric, sulfuric, and nitric acids. Cuticles were enzymically isolated from leaves and placed in a diffusion apparatus with pH 4 acid on the morphological outer surface of the cuticle and degassed distilled water on the inner surface. Changes in pH of the solution on the inner surface were used to determine rates of effective permeability of the cuticles to the protons of these acids. Most cuticles exhibited an initial low permeability, lasting hours to days, then after a short transition displayed a significantly higher permeability, which persisted until equilibrium was approached. The change in effective permeability appears to be reversible. Effective permeabilities were higher for sulfuric acid than for the others. A model of the movement of protons through the cuticle is presented, proposing that dissociated acid groups in channels within the cutin are first protonated by the acid, accounting for the low initial effective permeability; then protons pass freely through the channels, resulting in a higher effective permeability.

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