Plasma membrane in stomata is reversibly internalized to maintain cell integrity.

Figure 1. Paradermal (upper) and transverse (lower) confocal images of guard cells before (left) and after (right) the addition of 1.5 MPa mannitol in the external buffer. Scale bar = 20 μm. –

Changes in surface area of intact guard cells are correlated with membrane internalization.

by Shope J. C., DeWald D. B., Mott K. A. (2003)

Utah State University, Logan, Utah

in Plant Physiology 133, 1314-1321. – doi:  10.1104/pp.103.027698 – 

[PMC free article][PubMed] –

Figure 2. Point cloud reconstructions of the cells shown in Figure 1. Image editing software was used to reconstruct the guard cells by placing data points on the membrane creating a “cloud” of triplet data points. Top two panels, paradermal view … –


Guard cells must maintain the integrity of the plasma membrane as they undergo large, rapid changes in volume. It has been assumed that changes in volume are accompanied by changes in surface area, but mechanisms for regulating plasma membrane surface area have not been identified in intact guard cells, and the extent to which surface area of the guard cells changes with volume has never been determined.

The alternative hypothesis—that surface area remains approximately constant because of changes in shape—has not been investigated. To address these questions, we determined surface area for intact guard cells of Vicia faba as they underwent changes in volume in response to changes in the external osmotic potential.

We also estimated membrane internalization for these cells. Epidermal peels were subjected to external solutions of varying osmotic potential to shrink and swell the guard cells.

A membrane-specific fluorescent dye was used to identify the plasma membrane, and confocal microscopy was used to acquire a series of optical paradermal sections of the guard cell pair at each osmotic potential. Solid digital objects representing the guard cells were created from the membrane outlines identified in these paradermal sections, and surface area, volume, and various linear dimensions were determined for these solid objects.

Surface area decreased by as much as 40% when external osmotic potential was increased from 0 to 1.5 MPa, and surface area varied linearly with volume. Membrane internalization was approximated by determining the amount of the fluorescence in the cell’s interior. This value was shown to increase approximately linearly with decreases in the cell’s surface area. The changes in surface area, volume, and membrane internalization were reversible when the guard cells were returned to a buffer solution with an osmotic potential of approximately zero.

The data show that intact guard cells undergo changes in surface area that are too large to be accommodated by plasma membrane stretching and shrinkage and suggest that membrane is reversibly internalized to maintain cell integrity.


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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