Plant Ecology

, Volume 151, Issue 1, pp 29–39 | Cite as

A comparison of mechanisms of desiccation tolerance among three angiosperm resurrection plant species

  • Jill M. Farrant


The mechanisms of protection against mechanical and oxidative stress were identified and compared in the angiosperm resurrection plants Craterostigma wilmsii, Myrothamnus flabellifolius and Xerophyta humilis. Drying-induced ultrastructural changes within mesophyll cells were followed to gain an understanding of the mechanisms of mechanical stabilisation. In all three species, water filled vacuoles present in hydrated cells were replaced by several smaller vacuoles filled with non-aqueous substances. In X. humilis, these occupied a large proportion of the cytoplasm, preventing plasmalemma withdrawal and cell wall collapse. In C. wilmsii, vacuoles were small but extensive cell wall folding occurred to prevent plasmalemma withdrawal. In M. flabellifolius, some degree of vacuolation and wall folding occurred, but neither were sufficient to prevent plasmalemma withdrawal. This membrane was not ruptured, possibly due to membrane repair at plasmodesmata junctions where tearing might have occurred. In addition, the extra-cytoplasmic compartment appeared to contain material (possibly similar to that in vacuoles) which could facilitate stabilisation of dry cells.

Photosynthesis and respiration are particularly susceptible to oxidative stress during drying. Photosynthesis ceased at high water contents and it is proposed that a controlled shut down of this metabolism occurred in order to minimise the potential for photo-oxidation. The mechanisms whereby this was achieved varied among the species. In X. humilis, chlorophyll was degraded and thylakoid membranes dismantled during drying. In both C. wilmsii and M. flabellifolius, chlorophyll was retained, but photosynthesis was stopped due to chlorophyll shading from leaf folding and anthocyanin accumulation. Furthermore, in M. flabellifolius thylakoid membranes became unstacked during drying. All species continued respiration during drying to 10% relative water content, which is proposed to be necessary for energy to establish protection mechanisms. Activity of antioxidant enzymes increased during drying and remained high at low water contents in all species, ameliorating free radical damage from both photosynthesis and respiration. The nature and extent of antioxidant upregulation varied among the species. In C. wilmsii, only ascorbate peroxidise activity increased, but in M. flabellifolius and X. humilis ascorbate peroxidise, glutathione reductase and superoxide dismutase activity increased, to various extents, during drying. Anthocyanins accumulated in all species but this was more extensive in the homoiochlorophyllous types, possibly for protection against photo-oxidation.

Antioxidants Mechanical stress Oxidative stress Photosynthesis Vacuolation 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jill M. Farrant
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of Cape Town, Private BagRondeboschSouth Africa

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