The high rate of productivity observed in panicoid crops is in part due to their extensive root system. Recently, green foxtail (Setaria viridis) has emerged as a genetic model system for panicoid grasses. Natural accessions of S. viridis originating from different parts of the world, with differential leaf physiological behavior, have been identified. This work focused on understanding the physiological and molecular mechanisms controlling root hydraulic conductivity and root-to-shoot gas exchange signaling in S. viridis. We identified 2 accessions, SHA and ZHA, with contrasting behavior at the leaf, root, and whole-plant levels. Our results indicated a role for root aquaporin (AQP) plasma membrane (PM) intrinsic proteins in the differential behavior of SHA and ZHA. Moreover, a different root hydraulic response to low levels of abscisic acid between SHA and ZHA was observed, which was associated with root AQPs. Using cell imaging, biochemical, and reverse genetic approaches, we identified PM intrinsic protein 1;6 (PIP1;6) as a possible PIP1 candidate that regulates radial root hydraulics and root-to-shoot signaling of gas exchange in S. viridis. In heterologous systems, PIP1;6 localized in the endoplasmic reticulum, and upon interaction with PIP2s, relocalization to the PM was observed. PIP1;6 was predominantly expressed at the root endodermis. Generation of knockout PIP1;6 plants (KO-PIP1;6) in S. viridis showed altered root hydraulic conductivity, altered gas exchange, and alteration of root transcriptional patterns. Our results indicate that PIPs are essential in regulating whole-plant water homeostasis in S. viridis. We conclude that root hydraulic conductivity and gas exchange are positively associated and are regulated by AQPs.
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