Leaf hydraulic conductance (Kleaf) facilitates the supply of water, enabling continual CO2 uptake while maintaining plant water status. We hypothesized that bundle sheath and mesophyll cells play key roles in regulating the radial flow of water out of the xylem by responding to abscisic acid (ABA). Thus, we generated transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana plants that are insensitive to ABA in their bundle sheath (BSabi) and mesophyll (MCabi) cells. We also introduced tissue-specific fluorescent markers to distinguish between cells of the palisade mesophyll, spongy mesophyll, and bundle sheath. Both BSabi and MCabi plants showed greater Kleaf and transpiration under optimal conditions. MCabi plants had larger stomatal apertures, higher stomatal index, and greater vascular diameter and biomass relative to the wild-type (WT) and BSabi plants. In response to xylem-fed ABA, both transgenic and WT plants reduced their Kleaf and transpiration. The membrane osmotic water permeability (Pf) of the WT's spongy mesophyll was higher than that of the WT's palisade mesophyll. While the palisade mesophyll maintained a low Pf in response to high ABA, the spongy mesophyll Pf was reduced. Compared to the WT, BSabi bundle sheath cells had a higher Pf, but MCabi spongy mesophyll had an unexpected lower Pf. These results suggest that tissue-specific regulation of Pf by ABA may be confounded by whole-leaf hydraulics and transpiration. ABA increased the symplastic permeability, but its contribution to Kleaf was negligible. We suggest that the bundle sheath spongy mesophyll pathway dynamically responds to the fluctuations in water availability, while the palisade mesophyll serves as a hydraulic buffer.
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