The classical view that the drought-related hormone ABA simply acts locally at the guard cell level to induce stomatal closure is questioned by differences between isolated epidermis and intact leaves in stomatal response to several stimuli. We tested the hypothesis that ABA mediates, in addition to a local effect, a remote effect in planta by changing hydraulic regulation in the leaf upstream of the stomata. By gravimetry, porometry to water vapour and argon, and psychrometry, we investigated the effect of exogenous ABA on transpiration, stomatal conductance and leaf hydraulic conductance of mutants described as ABA-insensitive at the guard cell level. We show that foliar transpiration of several ABA-insensitive mutants decreases in response to ABA. We demonstrate that ABA decreases stomatal conductance and down-regulates leaf hydraulic conductance in both the wildtype Col-0 and the ABA-insensitive mutant ost2-2. We propose that ABA promotes stomatal closure in a dual way via its already known biochemical effect on guard cells and a novel, indirect hydraulic effect through a decrease in water permeability within leaf vascular tissues. Variability in sensitivity of leaf hydraulic conductance to ABA among species could provide a physiological basis to the isohydric or anisohydric behaviour.
© 2012 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2012 New Phytologist Trust.