Stomatal responses to light and humidity (vapor pressure difference, VPD) are important determinants of stomatal conductance. Stomatal movements induced by light are the result of a transduction of the light stimulus into modulated ion fluxes in guard cells and concomitant osmotic adjustments and turgor changes. It is generally assumed that this transduction process is a general stomatal property, with different environmental stimuli integrated into guard cell metabolism through their modulation of ion fluxes. In contrast with this notion, the VPD response, which is unique because both its triggering signal and the turgor changes required for aperture modulations involve water molecules, has been considered to be hydropassive and thus independent of guard cell metabolism. We used a kinetic approach to compare the light and VPD responses in order to test the hypothesis that hydropassive changes in guard cell turgor could be faster than the metabolism-dependent light responses. Changes in stomatal conductance in intact leaves of sugarcane and soybean were measured after application of step changes in VPD and in light. In spite of a 5-fold difference in overall rates between the two species, the response rates following light or VPD steps were similar. Although a coincidental kinetic similarity between two mechanistically different responses cannot be ruled out, the data suggest a common mechanism controlling stomatal movements, with the VPD stimulus inducing metabolic modulations of ion fluxes analogous to other stomatal responses.
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