Boron enters plant roots as undissociated boric acid (H(3)BO(3)). Significant differences in B uptake are frequently observed even when plants are grown under identical conditions. It has been theorized that these differences reflect species differences in permeability coefficient of H(3)BO(3) across plasma membrane. The permeability coefficient of boric acid however, has not been experimentally determined across any artificial or plant membrane. In the experiments described here the permeability coefficient of boric acid in liposomes made of phosphatidylcholine was 4.9x10(-6) cm sec(-1), which is in good agreement with the theoretical value. The permeability coefficient varied from 7x10(-6) to 9.5x10(-9) cm sec(-1) with changes in sterols (cholesterol), the type of phospholipid head group, the length of the fatty acyl chain, and the pH of the medium. In this study we also used Arabidopsis thaliana mutants which differ in lipid composition to study the effect of lipid composition on B uptake. The chs1-1 mutant which has lower proportion of sterols shows 30% higher B uptake compared with the wild type, while the act1-1 mutant which has an increased percentage of longer fatty acids, exhibited 35% lower uptake than the wild type. Lipid composition changes in each of the remaining mutants influenced B uptake to various extents. These data suggest that lipid composition of the plasma membrane can affect total B uptake.