Faculty Publications

Effect Of Cations On Effective Permeability Of Leaf Cuticles To Sulfuric Acid

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Plant Physiology





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Many plants are exposed to prolonged episodes of anthropogenic acid precipitation with pH values of 4 or less, but there is little evidence of widespread direct damage to the plant cells. Acids appear to permeate leaf cuticle via charged pores, which act as a fixed buffer that delays but does not stop acid movement. We investigated the effect of cations on the movement of protons through astomatous isolated leaf cuticles of pear (Pyrus communis L.) and rough lemon (Citrus limon [L.] Burm. fils cv Ponderosa). Chloride salt solutions of Na, K, Ca, Cd, Mg, Gd, or Y in a diffusion apparatus were applied to the morphological inner surface of the cuticle, while the outer surface faced a large volume of pH 3 or 4 sulfuric acid. Effective permeability was calculated from the change in the pH of the inner solution as measured with a pH microelectrode. Monovalent cations caused either no change (pear) or promotion (rough lemon) of proton movement. Divalent cations reduced proton movement in a concentration-dependent manner (both species), whereas trivalent cations (rough lemon only) caused the effective permeability to decrease to near zero. Inhibition by 10 mM CaCl2 was reversed with water. The effects of these cations on the permeability of cuticles to protons was used to elucidate mechanisms by which cations can protect leaves from acid precipitation in nature.


Department of Biology

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