We functionally characterized the grape ( Vitis vinifera ) VvPIP2;4N (for Plasma membrane Intrinsic Protein ) aquaporin gene. Expression of VvPIP2;4N in Xenopus laevis oocytes increased their swelling rate 54-fold. Northern blot and quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analyses showed that VvPIP2;4N is the most expressed PIP2 gene in root. In situ hybridization confirmed root localization in the cortical parenchyma and close to the endodermis. We then constitutively overexpressed VvPIP2;4N in grape ‘Brachetto’, and in the resulting transgenic plants we analyzed (1) the expression of endogenous and transgenic VvPIP2;4N and of four other aquaporins, (2) whole-plant, root, and leaf ecophysiological parameters, and (3) leaf abscisic acid content. Expression of transgenic VvPIP2;4N inhibited neither the expression of the endogenous gene nor that of other PIP aquaporins in both root and leaf. Under well-watered conditions, transgenic plants showed higher stomatal conductance, gas exchange, and shoot growth. The expression level of VvPIP2;4N (endogenous + transgene) was inversely correlated to root hydraulic resistance. The leaf component of total plant hydraulic resistance was low and unaffected by overexpression of VvPIP2;4N . Upon water stress, the overexpression of VvPIP2;4N induced a surge in leaf abscisic acid content and a decrease in stomatal conductance and leaf gas exchange. Our results show that aquaporin-mediated modifications of root hydraulics play a substantial role in the regulation of water flow in well-watered grapevine plants, while they have a minor role upon drought, probably because other signals, such as abscisic acid, take over the control of water flow. Glossary qRT quantitative reverse transcription P f water permeability ABA abscisic acid HPFM high-pressure flux method EFM evaporative flux method R h root whole-root hydraulic resistance R h plant whole-plant hydraulic resistance DIG digoxigenin cDNA complementary DNA
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