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Characterization of the variation potential in sunflower

Stankovic, B., Zawadzki, T., Davies, E.
Plant physiology 1997 v.115 no.3 pp. 1083-1088
Helianthus annuus, xylem, membrane potential, turgor, proton pump, plasma membrane, ion exchange, stress response
A major candidate for intercellular signaling in higher plants is the stimulus-induced systemic change in membrane potential known as variation potential (VP). We investigated the mechanism of occurrence and long-distance propagation of VP in sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) plants. Here we present evidence of the relationship among injury-induced changes in xylem tension, turgor pressure, and electrical potential. Although locally applied wounding did trigger a change in membrane potential, it evoked even faster changes in tissue deformation, apparently resulting from pressure surges rapidly transmitted through the xylem and experienced throughout the plant. Externally applied pressure mimicked flame wounding by triggering an electrical response resembling VP. Our findings suggest that VP in sunflower is not a propagating change in electrical potential and not the consequence of chemicals transmitted via the xylem, affecting ligand-modulated ion channels. Instead, VP appears to result from the surge in pressure in the xylem causing a change in activity of mechanosensitive, stretch-responsive ion channels or pumps in adjacent, living cells. The ensuing ion flux evokes local plasma membrane depolarization, which is monitored extracellularly as VP.