1021-4437/02/4906- $27.00 © 2002
Russian Journal of Plant Physiology, Vol. 49, No. 6, 2002, pp. 839–844. Translated from Fiziologiya Rastenii, Vol. 49, No. 6, 2002, pp. 944–949.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2002 by Ivanov.
A leading Russian plant physiologist Professor
Dmitrii Borisovich Vakhmistrov, passed away on
December 20, 2001, at the age of 70. Having graduated
from the Timiryazev Agricultural Academy in 1955, he
worked from 1956 to the end of his life at the
Timiryazev Institute of Plant Physiology (Russian
Academy of Sciences).
Vakhmistrov published more than 100 scientiﬁc
papers on various aspects of mineral nutrition in plants,
ion transport, and agrochemistry. It would be impossi-
ble to cover all his activities in one article. Only most
important topics will be considered here.
The beginning of Vakhmistrov’s research career at
the Institute of Plant Physiology was a favorable period
for the young scientist, because it coincided with the
period when Academician A.L. Kursanov initiated ren-
ovation of the methodological bases. At the institute,
the functional electron microscopy was established and
the methods of biochemistry and biophysics were being
introduced. There was a group of active young scien-
tists who appreciated the new lines of investigation
being developed, Vakhmistrov among them. Being an
agrochemist by education, Vakhmistrov focused on the
topics of mineral nutrition in plants. Already in his ﬁrst
studies, he successfully aided in developing the adsorp-
tion theory of nutrition, prevalent at that time, by stat-
ing that the processes regulating ion uptake mainly
occur on the cell membrane. It was in the 1950–1960s
that the structure and the transport characteristics of the
plasma membrane became a subject of active investiga-
tion. Vakhmistrov’s studies in this area resulted in a dis-
sertation entitled “Accumulation of Ions in Plants and
the Role of Cell Membranes (by the Example of Potas-
sium),” which was nominated in 1969 for a Candidate
Science degree; however, in place of this, the author
was awarded the title of Doctor of Biology.
In his postdoctoral period, Vakhmistrov became the
head of the laboratory of mineral nutrition, where the
classical investigations by I.I. Kolosov, E.I. Ratner,
Z.I. Zhurbitskii, and O.F. Tueva were accomplished.
Under the guidance of Vakhmistrov, a new turn of lab-
oratory development began characterized by a wide
application of biophysical concepts for studying the
mechanisms and regulation of ion transport. The ion
inﬂux into the root was considered in close relation to
the biophysical characteristics of the cell membrane
and to the structural–functional features of cells and tis-
sues. Vakhmistrov summarized these studies in 1988 in
his Timiryazev lecture entitled “Spatial Organization of
Ion Transport in the Root” .
The ﬁrst principal result in Vakhmistrov’s studies
that was recognized worldwide was the estimation of
the “apparent free space (AFV)” in the root . Many
researchers believed at that time that AFV constituted
20–25% of the total root volume; this value exceeded
the volume of cellulosic cell walls and the apoplast.
Thus, it was inferred that AFV extends partly to the
cytoplasm, the conclusion casting some doubts on the
classical view of plasmalemma acting as an actual bar-
rier to passively diffusing ions. Only few researchers
supposed that the volume on AFV were largely overes-
timated and suggested much lower estimates. Accord-
ing to their estimates, AFV is restricted to cellulosic
cell walls. Vakhmistrov developed an original method-
ological approach that allowed him to exclude possible
errors, such as surface ﬁlm formation, adsorption and
desorption of ions in the cellular “Donnan space,” and
impairment of the barrier function of cell membranes.
Arrangement and Regulation of Ion Transport in Roots
in Studies by D. B. Vakhmistrov (1931–2001)