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Water permeability of isolated cuticular membranes: The effect of cuticular waxes on diffusion of water


The water permeability of astomatous cuticular membranes isolated from Citrus aurantium L. leaves, pear (Pyrus communis L.) leaves and onion (Allium cepa L.) bulb scales was determined before and after extraction of cuticular waxes with lipid solvents. In pear, the permeability coefficients for diffusion of tritiated water across cuticular membranes (CM) prior to extraction [P d(CM)] decreased by a factor of four during leaf expansion. In all three species investigated P d(CM) values of cuticular membranes from fully expanded leaves varied between 1 to 2×10-7 cm-3 s-1·P d(CM) values were not affected by pH. Extraction of cuticular waxes from the membranes increased their water permeability by a factor of 300 to 500. Permeability coefficients for diffusion of THO across the cutin matrix (MX) after extraction [P d(MX)] increased with increasing pH. P dvalues were not inversely proportional to the thickness of cuticular membranes. By treating the cutin matrix and cuticular waxes as two resistances acting in series it was shown that the water permeability of cuticles is completely determined by the waxes. The lack of the P d(CM) values to respond to pH appeared to be due to structural effects of waxes in the cutin matrix. Cuticular membranes from the submerse leaves of the aquatic plant Potamogeton lucens L. were three orders of magnitude more permeable to water than the cuticular membranes of the terrestrial species investigated.

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This study was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

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Schönherr, J. Water permeability of isolated cuticular membranes: The effect of cuticular waxes on diffusion of water. Planta 131, 159–164 (1976).

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  • Lipid
  • Permeability
  • Cutin
  • Aquatic Plant
  • Structural Effect