Root cortical and stelar protoplasts were isolated from maize ( Zea mays L.) plants that were either well watered or water stressed, and the patch-clamp technique was used to investigate their plasma membrane K + channel activity. In the root cortex water stress did not significantly affect inward- or outward-rectifying K + conductances relative to those observed in well-watered plants. In contrast, water stress significantly reduced the magnitude of the outward-rectifying K + current in the root stele but had little effect on the inward-rectifying K + current. Pretreating well-watered plants with abscisic acid also significantly affected K + currents in a way that was consistent with abscisic acid mediating, at least in part, the response of roots to water stress. It is proposed that the K + channels underlying the K + currents in the root stelar cells represent pathways that allow K + exchange between the root symplasm and xylem apoplast. It is suggested that the regulation of K + channel activity in the root in response to water stress could be part of an important adaptation of the plant to survive drying soils. Abbreviations: pS picosiemens TD time-dependent
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