Aquaporins are water channel proteins that facilitate the passage of water through biological membranes and play a crucial role in plant growth. We showed that ethylene treatment significantly reduced petal size, inhibited expansion of petal abaxial subepidermal cells, and decreased petal water content in rose ( Rosa hybrida ‘Samantha’). Here, we report the isolation of a plasma membrane aquaporin (PIP) gene, Rh-PIP2;1 , and characterized its potential role in ethylene-inhibited petal expansion. Rh-PIP2;1 is mainly localized on the plasma membrane and belongs to the class 2 subfamily of PIP proteins. We show that Rh-PIP2;1 is an active water channel. The transcripts of Rh-PIP2;1 are highly abundant in petal epidermal cells, especially in the abaxial subepidermal cells. The expression of Rh-PIP2;1 is highly correlated with petal expansion and tightly down-regulated by ethylene. Furthermore, we demonstrate that in Rh-PIP2;1 -silenced flowers, petal expansion was greatly inhibited and anatomical features of the petals were similar to those of ethylene-treated flowers. We argue that Rh-PIP2;1 plays an important role in petal cell expansion and that ethylene inhibits petal expansion of roses at least partially by suppressing Rh-PIP2;1 expression.
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