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A Hypothesis Relating Critical Potassium Concentrations for Growth to the Distribution and Functions of this Ion in the Plant Cell

R. A. Leigh and R. G. Wyn Jones
The New Phytologist
Vol. 97, No. 1 (May, 1984), pp. 1-13
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the New Phytologist Trust
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2434189
Page Count: 13
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A Hypothesis Relating Critical Potassium Concentrations for Growth to the Distribution and Functions of this Ion in the Plant Cell
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Abstract

The growth and metabolism of plants in response to different concentrations of tissue K is discussed in relation to current knowledge about the distribution and functions of this ion in plant cells. In the cytoplasm, K has an important role in providing the correct ionic environment for metabolic processes. The ionic requirements of protein synthesis seem to be particularly important in determining the composition of the cytoplasm. Potassium is not replaceable in its cytoplasmic functions and the plant probably needs to maintain the cytoplasmic concentration of K in the range of 100 to 200 mM. Potassium salts in the vacuole are involved in the generation of turgor but when unavailable they can be replaced by other solutes. Salts of other cations such as Na and Mg are often a readily available alternative to K but in their absence organic solutes must be accumulated. With these observations as a basis, a model is proposed in which, as the concentration of K in the tissue declines, the concentration in the cytoplasm is initially maintained constant, while that in the vacuole decreases. In order to maintain turgor, alternative solutes are accumulated in the vacuole as replacements for K. It is assumed that K in the vacuole can only drop to a certain minimum level and, once this is reached, any further decline of tissue K must be at the expense of that in the cytoplasm. This leads to a decrease in the rate of metabolic processes that depend on K and so to a decline in growth. The hypothesis explains the observed relationships between growth and concentrations of K in tissues, and their modification by Na and other cations.

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