Drought response in Arabidopsis displays synergistic coordination between stems and leaves

Ajaree Thonglim*, Giovanni Bortolami, Sylvain Delzon, Maximilian Larter, Remko Offringa, Joost J.B. Keurentjes, Erik Smets, Salma Balazadeh, Frederic Lens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The synergy between drought-responsive traits across different organs is crucial in the whole-plant mechanism influencing drought resilience. These organ interactions, however, are poorly understood, limiting our understanding of drought response strategies at the whole-plant level. Therefore, we need more integrative studies, especially on herbaceous species that represent many important food crops but remain underexplored in their drought response. We investigated inflorescence stems and rosette leaves of six Arabidopsis thaliana genotypes with contrasting drought tolerance, and combined anatomical observations with hydraulic measurements and gene expression studies to assess differences in drought response. The soc1ful double mutant was the most drought-tolerant genotype based on its synergistic combination of low stomatal conductance, largest stomatal safety margin, more stable leaf water potential during non-watering, reduced transcript levels of drought stress marker genes, and reduced loss of chlorophyll content in leaves, in combination with stems showing the highest embolism resistance, most pronounced lignification, and thickest intervessel pit membranes. In contrast, the most sensitive Cvi ecotype shows the opposite extreme of the same set of traits. The remaining four genotypes show variations in this drought syndrome. Our results reveal that anatomical, ecophysiological, and molecular adaptations across organs are intertwined, and multiple (differentially combined) strategies can be applied to acquire a certain level of drought tolerance.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbererac446
Pages (from-to)1004-1021
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number3
Early online date9 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2023


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