Growth dynamics of mechanically impeded lupin roots: Does altered morphology induce hypoxia?

Colin D. Hanbury, Brian J. Atwell*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    • Background and Aims: Root axes elongate slowly and swell radially under mechanical impedance. However, temporal and spatial changes to impeded root apices have only been described qualitatively. This paper aims (a) to quantify morphological changes to root apices and (b) assess whether these changes pre-dispose young root tissues to hypoxia. • Methods: Lupin (Lupinus angustifolius) seedlings were grown into coarse sand that was pressurized through a diaphragm to generate mechanical impedance on growing root axes. In situ observations yielded growth rates and root response to hypoxia. Roots were then removed to assess morphology, cell lengths and local growth velocities. Oxygen uptake into excised segments was measured. • Key Results: An applied pressure of 15 kPa slowed root extension by 75 % after 10-20 h while the same axes thickened by about 50 %. The most terminal 2-3 mm of axes did not respond morphologically to impedance, in spite of the slower flux of cells out of this region. The basal boundary of root extension encroached to within 4 mm of the apex (cf. 10 mm in unimpeded roots), while radial swelling extended 10 mm behind the apex in impeded roots. Oxygen demand by segments of these short, thick, impeded roots was significantly different from segments of unimpeded roots when the zones of elongation in each treatment were compared. Specifically, impeded roots consumed O2 faster and O2 consumption was more likely to be O2-limited over a substantial proportion of the elongation zone, making these roots more susceptible to O 2 deficit. Impeded roots used more O2 per unit growth (measured as either unit of elongation or unit of volumetric expansion) than unimpeded roots. Extension of impeded roots in situ was O2-limited at sub-atmospheric O2 levels (21 % O2), while unimpeded roots were only limited below 11 % O2. • Conclusions: The shift in the zone of extension towards the apex in impeded roots coincided with greater vulnerability to hypoxia even after soil was removed. Roots still encased in impeded soil are likely to suffer from marked O2 deficits.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)913-924
    Number of pages12
    JournalAnnals of Botany
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005


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