Water and Solute Movements in Plants

The transport of water and nutrients from the soil to the aerial parts of the plant through the cell wall, membrane, cytoplasm, and air spaces is called water and solute movementsin plants.The movement of water and solute is facilitated by the structure of roots, stems, and leaves. The xylem is the main tissue involved in the movement of water and solute in plants.

Transport is the process by which ions or molecules move from one location to another. Plants exchange the water molecules and solutes among their tissues, organs as well as with their environment in a short or long distance. The transport process is extensively controlled by cellular membranes. Water potential, hydrostatic pressures, electric-potential gradient, and concentration gradient drive the transport of biological molecules. Water potential plays a crucial role in the water and nutrient movements in the root through distinct routes before entering the xylem tissue of the plants. Transportation or movement of water from root to other parts of the plants always occurs against gravity and it is explained well by three different hypotheses.Solutes move either from one cytoplasm to another or across the extracellular spaces between cells.

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The water movement from the root to aerial parts of the plant against gravity is explained by three distinct hypotheses such as (i) root pressure (ii) capillary action, and (iii) cohesion-tension.

Root pressure: It depends on the positive pressure as the water transports from the soil into the roots by osmosis. It occurs due to the low potential of solute in roots. The water moves up from the root due to an increase in the water potential in the root xylem. Water droplet secretion or guttation from the stomata occurs due to root pressure under extreme conditions. However, root pressure can facilitate the water movement against gravity only by a few meters but not to a tall tree.

Capillary action: It is defined as the movement of liquid against the gravity within a narrow tube. Water moves by the capillary action due to three distinct properties such as surface tension, adhesion, and cohesion. • Surface tension occurs due to the strong bonding of hydrogen between water molecules at the air-water interface than molecules within the water. • Adhesion happens between molecules of water and xylem that shows that the attraction occurs between unlike molecules, whereas, cohesion exhibits the molecular attraction between like molecules. Hydrogen bonding between the molecules of water occurs due to cohesion.

Cohesion-tension: It is the widely accepted model for water movements in vascular plants and it combines the capillary action process with transpiration or water evaporation from the stomata. The movement of water in the xylem occurs ultimately through the transpiration process. The following event occurs through the cohesion-tension model. • Evaporation (transpiration) takes place as the stomata are open and allow the exchange of gases for photosynthesis. As it occurs, transpiration deepens the water meniscus in the leaf and the negative pressure (tension) is created. • Such negative pressure pulls water in the xylem and draws the water upward. More water molecules stick to each other and fill the xylem gap as the tip of the water is dragged toward the stomata.

The movement of water in the soil is achieved by bulk flow and it becomes more complex when it comes in contact with the surface of the root. Negative water potential drives the water and solute movement continuously once it enters inside the root. The water movement in the root is carried out from epidermis to endodermis through three distinct pathways such as (i) apoplast pathway, (ii) transmembrane pathway, and (iii) symplast pathway.

Apoplast pathway: In this pathway, water movement occurs through the cell wall pores exclusively without passing through the plasma membranes. In plant tissues, the apoplast pathway is the continuous system of cell walls and intercellular air spaces.

Transmembrane pathway: Through this pathway, movement of water occurs sequentially through water channels by entering into one side of the cell and exit on the other side of the cell until it reaches the xylem. This process is carried out in a series and the water is transported at least two membranes for each cell.

Symplast pathway: In this pathway, plasmodesmataare involved in the movement of water and solute from the cytoplasm of one cell to the next cell. It connects the entire cell cytoplasm network to facilitate the water movement until reaching the xylem.

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