, Volume 227, Issue 1, pp 47–56 | Cite as

Foliar trichome- and aquaporin-aided water uptake in a drought-resistant epiphyte Tillandsia ionantha Planchon

  • T. Ohrui
  • H. Nobira
  • Y. Sakata
  • T. Taji
  • C. Yamamoto
  • K. Nishida
  • T. Yamakawa
  • Y. Sasuga
  • Y. Yaguchi
  • H. Takenaga
  • Shigeo TanakaEmail author
Original Article


The atmospheric epiphyte Tillandsia ionantha is capable of surviving drought stress for 6 months or more without any exogenous water supply via an as of yet to be determined mechanism. When plants were soaked in water for 3 h, leaves absorbed a remarkably large amount of water (30–40% on the basis of fresh weight), exhibiting a bimodal absorption pattern. Radiolabeled water was taken up by the leaves by capillary action of the epidermal trichomes within 1 min (phase 1) and then transported intracellularly to leaf tissues over 3 h (phase 2). The removal of epidermal trichome wings from leaves as well as rinsing leaves with water significantly lowered the extracellular accumulation of water on leaf surfaces. The intracellular transport of water was inhibited by mercuric chloride, implicating the involvement of a water channel aquaporin in second-phase water absorption. Four cDNA clones (TiPIP1a, TiPIP1b, TiPIP1c, and TiPIP2a) homologous to PIP family aquaporins were isolated from the leaves, and RT-PCR showed that soaking plants in water stimulated the expression of TiPIP2a mRNA, suggesting the reinforcement in ability to rapidly absorb a large amount of water. The expression of TiPIP2a complementary RNA in Xenopus oocytes enhanced permeability, and treatment with inhibitors suggested that the water channel activity of TiPIP2a protein was regulated by phosphorylation. Thus, the high water uptake capability of T. ionantha leaves surviving drought is attributable to a bimodal trichome- and aquaporin-aided water uptake system based on rapid physical collection of water and subsequent, sustained chemical absorption.


Aquaporin Epiphyte Tillandsia Trichome Water absorption 



Crassulacean acid metabolism


Dry weight


Fresh weight


Plasma membrane intrinsic protein


Tissue water content



We thank Ayumi Aoki and Takashi Ohba for technical assistance. This work was supported by Grant-in-Aid (No. 12876074) for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Ohrui
    • 1
  • H. Nobira
    • 1
  • Y. Sakata
    • 1
  • T. Taji
    • 1
  • C. Yamamoto
    • 1
  • K. Nishida
    • 1
  • T. Yamakawa
    • 1
  • Y. Sasuga
    • 1
  • Y. Yaguchi
    • 2
  • H. Takenaga
    • 1
  • Shigeo Tanaka
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of Applied BioscienceTokyo University of AgricultureTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of Regional Environmental ScienceTokyo University of AgricultureTokyoJapan

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