Flooding reduces supply of oxygen to the roots affecting plant water uptake. Some flooding-tolerant tree species including tamarack (Larix laricina (Du Roi) K. Koch) produce adventitious roots in response to flooding. These roots were reported to have higher hydraulic conductivity under flooding conditions compared with non-adventitious roots. In the present study, we examined structural and functional modifications in adventitious roots of tamarack seedlings to explain their flooding tolerance.
Seedlings were subjected to the flooding treatment for six months, which resulted in an almost complete disintegration of the existing root system and its replacement with adventitious roots. We compared gas exchange parameters and water relations of flooded plants with the plants growing in well-drained soil and examined the root structures and root water transport properties. Although flooded seedlings had lower needle chlorophyll concentrations, their stomatal conductance, net photosynthesis rates and shoot water potentials were similar to non-flooded plants, indicative of flooding tolerance. Flooded adventitious roots had higher activation energy and a higher ratio of apoplastic to cell-to-cell water flow compared with non-flooded control roots as determined with the 1-hydroxypirene 3,6,8-trisulfonic acid apoplastic tracer dye. The adventitious roots in flooded plants also exhibited retarded xylem and endodermal development and accumulated numerous starch grains in the cortex. Microscopic examination of root sections treated with the PIP1 and PIP2 antibodies revealed high immunoreactivity in the cortex of non-flooded roots, as compared with flooded roots.
Structural modifications of adventitious roots suggest increased contribution of apoplastic bypass to water flow. The reduced dependence of roots on the hypoxia-sensitive aquaporin-mediated water transport is likely among the main mechanisms allowing tamarack seedlings to maintain water balance and gas exchange under flooding conditions.