, Volume 217, Issue 3, pp 382–391 | Cite as

Aerenchyma formation in roots of maize during sulphate starvation

  • D. L. Bouranis
  • S. N. Chorianopoulou
  • V. F. Siyiannis
  • V. E. Protonotarios
  • M. J. Hawkesford
Original Article


Young maize (Zea mays L., Poaceae) plants were grown in a complete, well-oxygenated nutrient solution and then deprived of their external source of sulphate. This treatment induced the formation of aerenchyma in roots. In addition to the effect of sulphate starvation on root anatomy, the presence and location of superoxide anions and hydrogen peroxide, and changes in calcium and pH were examined. By day 6 of sulphate deprivation, aerenchyma started to form in the roots of plants and the first aerenchymatous spaces were apparent in the middle of the cortex. S-starvation also induced thickening of the cell walls of the endodermis. Active oxygen species appeared in groups of intact mid-cortex cells. Formation of superoxide anion and hydrogen peroxide was found in degenerating cells of the mid-cortex. Very few nuclei in the cortex of S-starved roots fluoresced, being shrunken and near to the cell wall. By day 12 of S-deprivation, a fully developed aerenchyma was apparent and there were only a few 'chains' of cells bridging hypodermis to endodermis and stele of roots. Cell walls of endodermis of S-starved roots increased 68% in thickness. Intensive fluorescence in the cell walls of the endodermal, hypodermal and to a lesser extent of epidermal cells was observed due to the formation of active oxygen species, while there was no fluorescence in the cortical cells. There was a higher Ca concentration in the cells walls of the endodermis and epidermis, compared to the rest of the S-starved root tissues. A higher pH was observed, mainly in the cell walls of the hypodermis and to a lesser extent in the cell walls of the endodermis. Superoxide anion and hydrogen peroxide was found in degenerating cells of the root cortex. There was no fluorescence of nuclei in the cortex of S-starved roots.


Active oxygen species Aerenchyma formation Programmed cell death Root aerenchyma Sulphate starvation Zea 



active oxygen species




programmed cell death


superoxide dismutase



Rothamsted Research receives grant-aided support from the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council of the UK.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. L. Bouranis
    • 1
  • S. N. Chorianopoulou
    • 1
  • V. F. Siyiannis
    • 1
  • V. E. Protonotarios
    • 1
  • M. J. Hawkesford
    • 2
  1. 1.Plant Physiology Laboratory, Department of Agricultural BiotechnologyAgricultural University of AthensAthensGreece
  2. 2.Agriculture and Environment DivisionRothamsted ResearchHarpendenUK

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